January 20, 2009

Getting up early to watch the One Black

Situated all the way out here on the edge of the world there is a long tradition in New Zealand of getting up early to watch 15 men in black shirts chase a leather ball. So it didn't seem terribly different to get up early to watch one black man chase a leather bible across the Capitol steps.

It was a bit unclear for a while whether we'd actually see coverage of Obama's inaugration. For a few days we thought the only channel showing the event was the local feed of Al Jazeera (they also European sports events and German news shows), which we didn't receive, currently living in a neighborhood located inconveniently out of sight of the transmission tower. But then we got word that TV One, one of the main networks, would be starting their Breakfast show early to bring us coverage. This was a mixed blessing. While we receive TV One, the host of Breakfast is more than a little annoying.

The host is a former radio host who then stood for Parliament for the (conservative) National party, and lost to a transgender Labour party candidate in a fairly conservative rural district (I guess this shows that what passes as fairly conservative in New Zealand is a little different than in America, but that's by the by). By the standards of American network television, the host of Breakfast is unusually voluble about his political opinions. He hasn't been hiding his exasperation with the enthusiasm for Obama.

To a degree this exasperation reflects a real difference in political enthusiasm between New Zealand and the United States. People don't get excited or enraged by local politicians to quite the same extent. It would be like Americans getting really enthusiastic about their state house majority leader. Rarely happens. But the news in New Zealand would have done viewers here more of a service by at least trying to explain the enthusiasm, and respecting it, rather than dismissing it. The charm of the American transition between presidents is that the pageantry is over pretty quickly, but the pageantry and enthusiasm is done well.

In any event, the coverage was unexpectedly good. The best comedic moment came when they decided to skip coverage of the invocation, which was dismissed as "Someone is saying a prayer now" and that they would return to coverage of the event when something important happened. Of all the ways to not have to hear Rick Warren's awful accent this was a good one.

The other moment of comedy gold came when the Breakfast host introduced a former New Zealand ambassador to the United States who had been in the United States for 3 previous inaugurations. But as he often does the host struggled to get quite the right word and said the ambassador had "overseen" three previous inaugurations. The implication being that the Americans couldn't quite get it right without New Zealand oversight. Maybe, maybe. Now if only they could get them to schedule future inaugurations for more convenient New Zealand viewing ...

Posted by eroberts at January 20, 2009 2:41 PM