Howabout that nominating speech last night by Bill Clinton? Stirring, eloquent, forceful, thoughtful, passionate, conciliatory, humane, comprehensive and . . . long. Very long. Forty-eight minutes and change long. So long that about 11:15, ABC cut away to a delegate yawning very loudly. Cameras panned across glazed eyes. A quick glance up at Michelle Obama in the expensive house seats revealed someone whose mouth was set, unsmiling. The New York magazine headline this morning seemed to sum it up the marathon well: "Bill Clinton Got a Few (Thousand) Things Off his Chest Tonight."
The hivemind -- that rabble that shares obsessively on Twitter and Facebook -- started to turn against him at around 11. People started making jokes about missing flights, or waking up the next morning to see the speech still going, or perhaps wondering whether HE was running for something -- all stark contrast to minutes earlier when some seemed ready to appoint speech and speechgiver candidates for the Nobel Peace Prize.
So what happened? Let's go back to that couch in the living room from which speeches like this are best experienced and from which they are supposed to be experienced. An old rule in television says wrap it up by 11. It's not only an unwritten rule but codified in the very agreements between network and affiliate. Do not push your show past 11, unless it's a live sporting event or an awards show, or a few other exceptions. For just about 60 years, it's a rule that's bound viewers as well, who expect local news at that moment or head to bed. Their internal clock is set to that time too, 11 and done. When Clinton pushed past 11, he broke the rule -- broke it for everyone in Charlotte, and especially for everyone watching at home.
It was so long it muted -- if not quite bungled -- the made-for-TV moneyshot: President Obama walking out on stage to greet the former president.
Plus, it all brought back memories of '88 -- the Dukakis nominating speech that would not end -- weighing in at a relatively light 33 minutes -- and the line that got the biggest applause of the night from the governor of Arkansas: "In conclusion..."
It was the most memorable TV moment of the entire 1988 convention. Clinton also bounced back, you may have heard -- a reason for that old nickname, "The Comeback Kid." In any event, let's take a walk down TV memory lane. Here are a couple of clips from back in the day. The second one features Harry Thomason, who handled Clinton's media strategy, speaking about how to engineer the media comeback after that fiasco.