After Tuesday night’s debacle of a presidential debate, you can bet that, as the old saying goes, there’ll be some changes made!
When I watched Fox News anchor Chris Wallace attempt to moderate Tuesday night’s presidential debate, I thought about old-style game shows.
I know, from seeing memes on Facebook, that I wasn’t the only one.
I saw someone post a meme with shots from two little-known game shows. The first aired in the late 1970s and featured a young Alex Trebek. The second aired in the 1960s with the late Dennis James at the helm. Both Double Dare and PDQ used a common gimmick at the time: the isolation booth.
While one contestant worked to answer their question — solve a riddle, play a puzzle, whatever — producers shut out their opponent.
On Double Dare, (don’t confuse it with the slime-fest Nickelodeon show from the 1980s) doors closed off the contestant’s view of the stage while the sound-proof booth kept them from hearing the proceedings.
On PDQ, there were no doors on the isolation booths. But the flip of a switch put the contestant in total darkness and muted their sound.
In both cases, you could neither see nor hear the contestant who wasn’t in gameplay in a given moment.
After Tuesday nigh’s presidential debate, during which President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden continuously interrupted each other, that would be a welcome change.
Maybe isolation booths would be a bit much.
After all, the candidates do need to hear each other so they can respond appropriately.
But it’s that appropriate part that’s the problem. No one seems to know these days how to let one person speak without jumping in and talking over them.
Wallace, for his part, said he felt “desperation” during the debate.
“If I didn’t try to seize control of the debate — which I don’t know that I ever really did — then it was going to just go completely off the tracks,” Wallace told the New York Times.
Make no mistake: this presidential debate did go off the tracks. More than once.
But if we can’t use isolation booths, there’s a simpler answer: Turn off the microphones.
If it’s not your turn, you don’t get to speak. If you speak anyway, you don’t get heard. Maybe it sounds extreme to some of you. If that’s the case, I’d wager I know which side of the political spectrum you’re on. One candidate clearly interrupted and attempted to talk over the other — and the moderator — far more often.
The Commission on Presidential Debates — did you know such a thing even existed? — says it will make changes. The changes will hopefully create a “more orderly” debate. Good luck with that.
One of the changes they will consider is the ability to turn off microphones of whichever candidate isn’t speaking.
What an idea. Why it took so long to be “seriously” considered remains a mystery. I seem to recall past debates — with what seemed like 40 people on stage at once — when such a strategy would have been a welcome relief.
With just two people on stage, one would hope such a tactic would be unnecessary.
The biggest problem we have is that too many people only want to shout over one another. No one wants to stop and listen anymore.
Turn off the mics. They’ll have to listen then.