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Comparing Both Conventions As TV: Did Either One Get An Edge?


The numbers are in on how many people tuned in to watch Hillary Clinton accept the presidential nomination last night, and that number is more than 33 million. It is lower than Donald Trump's big night, which was nearly 35 million, but the Democrats had higher numbers than the Republicans for the first three nights. Our co-host Audie Cornish is still in Philadelphia where the Wells Fargo Center is being transformed back into a regular arena where Barbra Streisand will perform in a few weeks.


And as media booths are taken down and confetti is being swept away, we're going to talk about how the Democratic National Convention played as TV. Were people moved by slickly-produced videos?


MORGAN FREEMAN: How many times will she leave her mark? How many ways will she light up the world? This is the woman.

CORNISH: Yep, that's Morgan Freeman in a video produced by Shonda Rhimes. That was the opener to Hillary Clinton's big speech last night. NPR TV critic Eric Deggans joins us now. Hey there, Eric.

ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: I wish I had a voice like Morgan Freeman.

CORNISH: (Laughter) Well, that is one interesting thing about the DNC. In terms of pure production value, it seemed like they had an edge. They certainly do with Hollywood. What did you think? Did the Democrats put on a good show?

DEGGANS: Yeah, I really think they did, and certainly by the middle of the convention you had a sense that you were seeing something very well paced, very slickly put together. You compare it to the RNC, and they had C-list celebrities from reality TV shows. The Democrats had big-name people, big Democratic players - the president, the most recent Democratic president before him.

I thought the visuals mattered, you know? Having a general come out and have all these veterans lined up behind him sent a message. And one of the key visuals was having the father of a Muslim soldier who was killed in action raising his copy of the Constitution and saying to Donald Trump, hey, I'll loan you my copy so you can read it. And that's a move that's taken right out of the conservative playbook and that we've seen in speeches given by conservative activists and politicians.

CORNISH: This also extended to the music, right? That was a big part of this week's convention.

DEGGANS: Oh, yeah. The DNC worked in all these kinds of concert elements. So you think about the Republican National Convention, and you did get this performance from this cute little girl named Heavenly Joy. She was a contestant on "America's Got Talent." And in fact, if you didn't catch it, we've got a little clip. Let's check it out.


HEAVENLY JOY JERKINS: (Singing) Oh, beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain.

DEGGANS: Now, that is wonderful. She's very cute, but you know, the Democrats came out with heavy hitters like Katy Perry and Alicia Keys. So listen to this clip from Alicia Keys' performance.


ALICIA KEYS: (Singing) Well, yeah, cause even when I'm a mess, I still put on a vest with an S on my chest. Oh, yes, I'm a super woman - said I'm a super woman.

DEGGANS: Now, that's a showstopper.

CORNISH: And there were other artists there like Carole King and Lenny Kravitz, but hasn't Hollywood always been enamored with Democrats? I mean what's the big deal about the music?

DEGGANS: Well, I think it's one way for Democrats to look hip, right? They have some of the biggest stars on the planet out there. And it's also a way I think to reach out to young people. There's all this concern that these young people who supported Bernie Sanders will not cleave to Hillary Clinton. And you know, to have Katy Perry or Lena Dunham or Sarah Silverman come out there and say, hey, guys, you know, get behind Hillary, helps a lot.

And I think it's also evidence of how well stage-managed this convention was. You think about the RNC, and you know, they had Melania Trump speak, and then they had people scheduled to speak after her. And people were leaving the convention hall as, you know, some relatively important speakers were coming up. You know, the DNC had everything well-planned so that people stuck around, and it felt like a real presentation that had a flow to it.

CORNISH: So, Eric, do we know how the viewers responded?

DEGGANS: In general, we saw more viewership for the DNC than for the RNC, and we saw more viewership for the DNC this year than the DNC in 2012 except for Wednesday. So it gives us a sense that as much as people talk about election fatigue and maybe being a little tired of election coverage, there's a lot of people out there who still seem to be interested in this.

CORNISH: That's NPR's TV critic Eric Deggans. Eric, thanks so much.

DEGGANS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Eric Deggans is NPR's first full-time TV critic.
Over two decades of journalism, Audie Cornish has become a recognized and trusted voice on the airwaves as co-host of NPR's flagship news program, All Things Considered.