NBC scores with Inside the Obama White House
by Allison Waldman, posted Jun 4th 2009 10:10AM
If Jay Leno isn't the answer for NBC prime time, perhaps the network should think about booking President Obama. NBC News devoted two hours, on Tuesday and Wednesday night, for Inside the Obama White House and the ratings were strong. Better than the insipid I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here, which acted as a lead-in. Of course the season finale of Law & Order: SVU on Tuesday didn't hurt the news production.
Having watched the two hours, NBC should sign the president ASAP. There's always the curiosity factor when a viewer is being given access behind the scenes, and that's what Inside the Obama White House did. It was a look at the real West Wing, which reminded me a lot of the fictional, Aaron Sorkin West Wing creation, and that was quite cool. President Obama still fascinates me, and it's well past 100 days.
But more than that, Brian Williams, the NBC News anchorman who acted as host/guide/interviewer for the show, did a great job of representing the typical viewer. He was suitably impressed with the trappings of the White House – although he did call it a museum a tad too many times – and got familiar enough with the President and First Lady while never treating them like just another celebrity couple. They're not.
Still, my favorite moments in the specials were when the Obamas connected with the real world. Michelle Obama going to visit school kids; the First Dog, Bo, rolling onto his back for a belly rub. And whether it was staged for the cameras or not, the President taking lunch orders and going off to Five Guys for burgers and fries for the staff was brilliant optics (a favorite word in politics these days). He got out of the limousine, greeted the customers – who were stunned to see the commander in chief out and about – and stepped up to the counter to order lunch. He wasn't putting on airs or having an assistant do the job; he was buying lunch for the office.
Like I said, if it was staged, kudos to the Obama staff for creating a great scene. And if those folks eating at the burger joint were in the scene, they were the best extras imaginable.
So, NBC, take note: if Jay doesn't cut it with the prime time 10 o'clock gig next season, see if the President is available. He might be busy, but if he's sincere about starting to campaign early for a second term, the President may want the exposure.