It was easily the biggest TV event of the week — and might possibly reign as the most-watched TV show of the entire fall season.
But who knows? The next two debates — and then the wall-to-wall coverage of the balloting on Election Night Nov. 6 — might even surpass the estimated audience of 67 million who tuned in to see the first debate between President Obama and challenger Mitt Romney Wednesday night. Interest in this election is evidently high — so high that an audience as big as the one the debate received hadn’t been seen since 1980, according to some estimates.
Afterwards, the majority of opinion gave Romney a clear victory. Ecstatic commentators on the right applauded, while those on the left expressed their disappointment in their man’s performance.
The event was so huge — overriding by far the various fall premieres taking place on network TV all week — that we’re devoting the first two items in this week’s Top Five to the debate and its aftermath.
1) To the victor goes the No. 1 position: Predictably, Bill O’Reilly opened Thursday’s “O’Reilly Factor” on Fox News Channel with a “Talking Points Memo” outlining why the President lost. He quoted an e-mail he received after the debate from Dennis Miller: “I hope the President’s butt-kicking is covered by Obamacare.” O’Reilly went on to describe the crestfallen Democratic reaction to the President’s debate performance as looking “like Parisians watching the Germans march into Paris in 1940.”
2) Chris Matthews plays hardball with the President: Many who tuned into MSNBC after the debate have commented on Chris Matthews’ emotional reaction to the President’s lackadaisical debate. Matthews was just as verbose the next morning, when he was interviewed in Denver on NBC’s “Today Show” by Savannah Guthrie and David Gregory. Lamented Matthews: “I don’t know how he let Romney get away with the crap he threw out!”
3) Darling, I love ya, but give me Park Av-e-nue!: New Yorkers are perhaps more intrigued than most about “666 Park Avenue,” ABC’s new Sunday night drama series about a Manhattan apartment house possessed (and owned, apparently) by Satan (and/or his minions). The main thing fascinating New Yorkers: The apartment building they’re using is nowhere near Park Avenue. Instead, it’s on Broadway, on the Upper West Side — a building known as the Ansonia that’s far more flamboyant than any of the stately brick and limestone apartment houses that line Park Avenue. The show, which premiered last Sunday, was filled with other inconsistencies that only a New York apartment-dweller would recognize. Nevertheless, we were intrigued by the spooky, creepy concept behind this series.
4) Martin Short and his “brothers”: Readers of this weekly Top Five may realize by now that we have a soft spot for Martin Short and his appearances on late-night TV. He’s a master showman and entertainer who always comes ready to play. This week, he was seen on both David Letterman’s “Late Show” and “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon,” promoting his voiceover performances in the new Tim Burton animated film “Frankenweenie.” As usual, Short was amazing on “Letterman” as he came prepared to perform an elaborate musical number, this one featuring himself and his two “brothers” from whom he had been estranged for many years (or so he claimed).
5) The beginning of the end: NBC’s “30 Rock” finally premiered for its final go-round this past week, with an episode that drew around 3.4 million viewers at 8/7c Thursday night. It was a pretty low number for a show that was once the undisputed darling of viewers, critics and the Emmys. But no more, apparently. Oh, well. We leave you with this episode for you to watch for old times’ sake. Plus, the episode, at least in part, was a sharp satire of TV today — particularly NBC and its search for hits. In real life, there’s been some signs of life in NBC’s new fall lineup so far in the new season. On “30 Rock,” however, NBC’s situation — in the hands of Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin) — is hopeless.