Wednesday night's first presidential debate of this election season may have been the most Tweeted political event in history, but in our opinion, the format would definitely benefit from the addition of some classic reality show gimmicks. Here's what the organizers and broadcasters could do to really increase the entertainment value of future debates, which, after all, is what really matters:
10. Get Some Angry Judges in There
Jim Lehrer made for a great news anchor in his time, and we're sure that these days he's an excellent grandpa, but he did not pack enough punch for primetime audiences. We say bring in a panel of no-nonsense reality judges who know how to get the show moving while offering immediate, .gif-worthy feedback. We'd probably go with Simon Cowell, Nigel Lythgoe and Len Goodman to keep it classy yet blunt.
9. Allow Crowd Participation
What's the point of the debates being held in front of crowds if they aren't allowed to make any noise? The benefit of taping in front of a live audience is to really get the feel of the room -- and without people clapping, cheering and jeering (at the nominees and the moderator), we're completely lost on how to feel about the candidate's points... the split screen does make things a bit easier, though.
8. Introduce a Results Show
For one quick hour the night after each debate, a live band could play, some dancers could perform and the nominees could get called out in front of a live studio audience to learn who, in fact, won the previous night's tête-à-tête, just for kicks. If you're pressed for time, the most mortifying way to do this, as we learned from So You Think You Can Dance this season, is to not reveal who lost the previous debate until the end of the next one.
7. Show Us the Families
It wasn't until after the two-hour broadcast when Michelle Obama and the Romney gang came out that we were allowed to see their faces, and even then, we'll never know their real reactions... unless, of course, cameras panned over to them during the show. To make it more interesting, Michelle and Ann can get separate rooms where they watch the debate on a live feed and give us hilarious, angry and sometimes heartbreaking reactions to the grudge match between their husbands.
6. Employ Humiliating Social Media
Recruit Amerca's Next Top Model's Bryanboy to sit alongside the moderator(s) to read real-time tweets about the candidates, play poor-quality Skype video messages and tally vague social media scores in order to remind them that this is a serious competition. (Note: A more qualified judge will also be required to come along and supervise Bryanboy, adding his or her own overcompensating scores to cancel everything out anyway.)
5. Let Us Go Behind-the-Scenes
It's reality competition canon to show the grueling road to preparing for contestants' big moments before they perform live for the world. Surely a lot of hard work from experts and coaches went into polishing the debaters, and there had to have been a least a few times when the candidates slipped and fell or sobbed hysterically before having a breakdown. Show us that.
4. Buy Two Novelty Buzzers
After the debate, various news outlets pointed out specific examples of both Obama's and Romney's exaggerations, hypocrisies and inconsistencies about their political plans and beliefs -- but it's not like every person watching the broadcast knows how to sort out fact from fiction. That's where buzzers and flashing lights come in: Every time one of the candidates tells a lie, the alarms will obnoxiously sound, America's Got Talent-style.
3. Add Secret Bonuses and Punishments
People love Survivor's Immunity Idols, The Amazing Race's Roadblocks and Big Brother's Pandora's Box, so why don't the debate organizers throw in some fun twists during the two-hour installments? Every time a candidate stutters for more than a few seconds or utters a secret word, there could be hidden rewards and/or penalties -- think something along the lines of getting bonus minutes to talk or being forced to wear a rainbow afro wig for the rest of the evening.
2. Tape Confessionals
As seen in just about every reality show in existence, confessionals, diaries and talking heads are what make for interesting television. Imagine if every time a candidate courteously smiled or giggled during something horrible their opponent said or to break a moment of awkward tension, editors threw in a few seconds of one of the debaters giving their gut reactions. We'd be willing to watch the whole thing the day after it happened for just a couple of minutes of real talk.
1. When All Else Fails, Use Spinning Chairs
No time to do any actual planning for the next debate? Just install one giant automated chair for the moderator to sit in, and every time one of the candidates clearly wins a point, the moderator hits a button, crowns them the winner and then moves on to the next point. It goes without saying, but Purrfect the Cat (donning an American-flag collar!) would need to be included.
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