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October 29, 2008

Reviews: TV critics praise Obama ad

On Wednesday night Barack Obama faced one of his toughest audiences yet: the nation's TV critics.

Reviews of his infomercial say the candidate managed to pull off a strong half-hour of political messaging. Of course, critics are usually subjected to NBC's "Knight Rider" and CBS sitcoms in this time period, so Obama wasn't exactly kicking "Mad Men" off the air.

The verdicts...

"Obama uses his TV time well ... There was talk about tough issues but no harsh attacks on the other side and no flashes of anger. It was if the campaign had adopted a new political mantra: Speak softly and carry a big ad." -- USA Today

"As political filmmaking, 'Barack Obama: American Stories' was an elegant combination of pictures, sounds, voices and music designed not so much to sell America on Barack Obama as to communicate a sensibility. The film conveyed feelings, not facts -- specifically, a simulation of how it would feel to live in an America with Barack Obama in the White House. The tone and texture recalled the 'morning in America' campaign film made on behalf of Ronald Reagan, a work designed to give the audience a sense of security and satisfaction; things are going to be all right." -- Tom Shales, Washington Post

"There was barely a whisper of negativity in the half hour, but the almost Palinesque call to self-reliance that ran through the show from start to finish undercut both the GOP vice presidential candidate's and McCain's complaints that Obama's big-government philosophy borders on socialism ... Without a wild-eyed college kid in sight, the youthful candidate made his pitch not for change into some newfangled tomorrow, but back to the values of the past. He certainly lost nothing from the infomercial, and it's likely he found more than a few buyers." -- Jonathan Storm, Philadelphia Inquirer


"Every few minutes, Obama would re-establish intimacy with the viewer, addressing the camera to tick off a few more action items for his first term in office. These have been recited countless times in 30-second TV ads, but as they stacked up throughout the program, they acquired a kind of momentum that's simply not possible in a conventional commercial." -- Aaron Barnhart, Kansas City Star

"It didn't have the cadence and drive of earlier speeches; the crowd didn't immediately respond to every phrase with all it had (though it built). Maybe it was getting late in the day, certainly late in the 20 month campaign. Maybe you can't come in at the end of a speech and get its full effect. It wound up with some of that speechifyin' sweep we've been expecting but no big finale. Also: No credits and no scenes from next week's episode. Because next week, he'll either be the next elected president, or he won't." -- Roger Catlin, Hartford Courant

"Obama also can expect some zingers for speaking frequently during the ad from a setting evocative of the Oval Office (except for the wood paneling). Backdrops have been problematic for his campaign -- the columns that framed his nomination acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention were subjected to ridicule. The Oval Office motif will fuel McCain charges that Obama is taking for granted the outcome of Tuesday's election. And there was the Great Seal of Obama he used on the lectern one time. Then again, if he was taking victory for granted, why pay for 30 minutes of prime-time television?" -- LA Times

"And he looked presidential when the wheat -- I swear, the infomercial opened with acres and acres of wheat -- was doing what wheat does, waving over those oh-so-golden plains. This was 30 minutes of high-class production values, which told you little that you didn't know before but which offered you 30 minutes of feeling comfortable watching Obama from your living room, 30 minutes of campaign speech and autobiography and touching photos with his kids and with his mom." -- Rocky Mountain News

ALSO: The AP fact check .... Politico's pundits roundtable ... Video: The full infomercial ... NY Post: Infomercial pitchman gives the ad high marks ... McCain responds

UPDATE: The ad's ratings are coming in. Obama beats "Knight Rider" and Ross Perot!

Previous: Obama ad will have live portion ... "Pushing Daisies" creator Fuller on competing with Obama ad ... CNN rejected Obama ad; Fox News not asked ... Thoughts on "The Obama Show" ... Obama buys half-hour of network primetime.


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