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The Rumble in the Air-Conditioned Auditorium: O'Reilly vs. Stewart 2012 (2012)

Video  -  Comedy | Talk-Show  -  6 October 2012 (USA)
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Title: The Rumble in the Air-Conditioned Auditorium: O'Reilly vs. Stewart 2012 (Video 2012)

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E.D. Hill ...
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Good idea which is engaging and energetic but badly needed a better moderator
8 October 2012 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

This one-off special occurred the other night streaming live over the internet; being in the UK this occurred at about 1am for me so I picked up the download a few days later. The debate was never going to be a serious affair but their discussions on each other's shows had always been entertaining but also interesting. Politically I lean much more towards Stewart but I respect most men and, outside of the cherry-picked outrage that you see on The Daily Show and the hyperbolic presentation he has to do at times, Bill O'Reilly does come over as quite balanced and reasonable in his views.

The debate starts out similar to the Presidential debate, with allotted times for answers and rebuttals. Later in the show it gets much less formal but to be honest it never really manages to be formal for longer than a few seconds – once Stewart activates his height-adjuster, you know there will be comedy throughout. This is OK and I had no problem with both men playing for laughs quite frequently, but I genuinely did want the debate to be a debate. There is discussion here though and occasionally both men are earnest and correct – there are a few times when both of them make points that the other simply cannot counter and it shows. The problem is that the nature of both men (particularly Stewart) is to be on a discussion panel where people can interject and interrupt; which works when you have one of them being in charge as host and when you have a production team in their ears preventing it being a mess and also an editor to make sense of it all. Here we are live and neither man is in charge.

What happens as a result is that it gets very messy very quickly. Some questions were only put to one of the men and some rebuttals seemed to go on forever. The biggest problem though is that neither man seemed able to consistently be allowed to talk without being interrupted and taken off course; it would not have been as messy had they been allowed to finish first, but they rarely were – and Stewart was the worse for doing it as he seemed quicker with the jokes which made the show funny but spoiled some discussion points. Both men are on good form though and both men seemed to not mind the way it went but for the viewer it was messy and the key factor was the lack of moderation.

"Are you still here?", Bill jokes at one point, but it is a fair dig too, since Hill really seems to be doing nothing for large sections of the debate. OK she needed to be light enough to allow the back and forward to occur and the energy to be present, but on the other hand she had to also control the debate and let the pair speak and answer the questions. As it went she couldn't find that middle ground and as a result the whole thing got messy – it needed a much stronger person in that role – someone who could deliver controlled freedom, not chaos. Having a very "Stewart-friendly" audience in the auditorium didn't help either.

That said though the two men make it work because both are genuine in their opinions and both have thought behind those opinions. I liked that both were put on the backfoot at times but unfortunately it is never long before the next interruption or next loss of focus and so on. Miles better than the "proper" debate a few nights earlier, but this needed just a bit more control and a better moderator to strengthen the "debate" part of this debate and allow it to have more structure and the men to have more time to lay out their cases.


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