Sunday, July 12, 2020

Failure Mode

Locally, here in Eastern Daylight Time, the broadcast network Sunday morning political talking head shows run more or less consecutively.

First is ABC's This Week With George Stephanopoulos at nine, then switch over to NBC for Meet the Press, and then finally cut over to the CBS affiliate at eleven for the last half hour of Face the Nation.

So, this morning the schedule for This Week is pretty typical. Several different interviews make up the first part of the show, then there's a brief data-oriented segment with Nate Silver of (apparently added to This Week after ABC bought FiveThirtyEight from ESPN, its crunchy data & graphics an obvious response to the "Data Download" segment Chuck Todd added to MTP after he took over as host.) The final segment of the show is a panel discussion, with four guests and Stephanopoulos.

Today, as they were coming off the commercial break after the FiveThirtyEight segment and into the panel, there was a distinct absence of audio...not even background noise...and George was staring off into the distance.

He fidgeted a bit in dead silence.

"Oh, $#!+," I blurted aloud, "He doesn't know he's on the air!"

Bobbi heard me and hurried into the room.

"Dude, you're on the air," I said again, as though the guy in the TV could hear me, "Don't pick your nose. You're on the air." Thankfully he didn't pick his nose.

Stephanopoulos started looking around more quizzically, then came the sound of audio as his mic was cut on. He blinked into the camera, read off the guest list for the panel somewhat haltingly, then looked off-camera before intoning "We have a technical problem. Sorry, we're going to go to break."

It was 9:39AM.

ABC started showing PSA-type commercials...Red Cross, FEMA disaster preparedness, foster parenting orgs, Foundation for a Better Life "Pass It On" ads...and then it showed them again. And again. And again.

Whatever was dicked up at the studios in Washington must have been bad, because the situation dragged on for five minutes...ten...a dozen...and then suddenly we were seeing local commercials and it was eleven o'clock and This Week's time slot was over without them recovering. The local affiliate went to their own programming and I cut over to NBC for Meet the Press.

With everyone working remotely, there was probably nobody in the studio where ABC was filming other than George and a director, maybe a couple other people. I doubt there was even a live camera person. With production and engineering and everyone working remotely, whatever happened borked the entire back half of the show.

If everyone's working remotely and the problem is one involving phone lines or internet access at the studios, that's gotta be catastrophic.