I called my father, a red-blooded Republican in the crucial battleground of Ohio, to see what he’d be watching on the historic evening of November 4. “Season two of Dexter on Netflix,” he replied curtly. In case you don’t share his disinterest, you’ll have literally dozens of TV choices on election night, many with star-studded guest lists, urgent-sounding news music, and new! technology! galore! Here are some highlights to help you differentiate as you flip.
CNN’s Election Night in America (not to be confused with election nights in other countries) kicks it off early at 6 p.m, with Wolf Blitzer, Campbell Brown, Anderson Cooper (sigh!) and John King working it at the “Magic Wall,” billed as “a 3-D, 6-foot-long virtual U.S. Capitol” wherein they can break it all down for those poor souls who only have access to normal walls.
BBC America and BBC World News will be helmed by anchors David Dimbleby and Matt Frei. Ted Koppel will join them in-studio to offer “big picture perspective and global analysis.” They’ve also assembled a diverse roster of special guests, including Ricky Gervais, Christopher Hitchens, Larry Sabato, Karen Hughes, Terry Nelson, Jay McInerney, Richard Schiff, Bill Bradley, John Bolton and Gore Vidal. (6 p.m.)
Though election anchors Charles Gibson, Diane Sawyer and George Stephanopoulos will be safely tucked away in-studio, ABC’s Vote 2008 will transform Times Square into an “outdoor global viewing event” as real-time election results are displayed on “three iconic screens — ABC's Super Sign, the enormous digital facade of NASDAQ and the 23-story-high Reuters sign.” Hopefully the Naked Cowboy will join poor anchor Bill Weir as he reports from the madness. They’ll also have Good Morning America Weekend Anchor Kate Snow with Gov. Sarah Palin. (7 p.m.)
Katie Couric will helm CBS’s Campaign 2008: Election Night, along with a phalanx of correspondents including Bob Schieffer, Jeff Greenfield, Sharyl Attkisson and CBS News Historian Doug Brinkley. No word yet on who gets to actually touch the “interactive touch screens.” Couric will also host a web-only Q&A after the live election coverage ends. (7 p.m.)
NBC coverage kicks off at 7 p.m., with Brian Williams and Tom Brokaw in New York, and Ann Curry tracking exit polls. MSNBC will begin coverage at 5 pm, anchored by David Gregory with Chris Matthews, Keith Olbermann, Rachel Maddow (sigh!), among others. And CNBC gifts us with Your Money, Your Vote: Decision 2008, also at 7 p.m.
Fox gives us You Decide 2008 (not 2004!) at 7 p.m. Fox News Channel begins their love coverage at 6 pm, with Brit Hume anchoring, joined by Chris Wallace, Fred Barnes, The Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol, with Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, and even Karl Rove (sigh!) making appearances throughout the evening.
If you’re calling in sick/lost at that Wall Street job, you can spend the entire day with Comedy Central’s Daily Show and Colbert Report marathon (10 a.m. to 10 p.m.), leading up to the live extravaganza, Indecision 2008: America's Choice, with Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert co-anchoring together for the first time in recorded history. (10 p.m.)
Jim Lehrer will lead PBS’s and The NewsHour’s in-depth election coverage, with cohorts Mark Shields, David Brooks, Gwen Ifill and more. All the regular election-coverage jazz, plus “voter videos submitted via YouTube!” Suck it, Magic Wall. (9 p.m.)
BET will be hosting an all-day election event with Jeff Johnson, plus guest-bloggers Rhymefest and Bun B blogging on the “Hip Hop vs. America” blog, encouraging viewers to vote and then share their experiences online. BET will report any viewer’s voter irregularities to watchdog groups like the NAACP and the Election Protection Coalition. BET News: Be Heard Election 2008 kicks off at 8 pm.
On the Independent Film Channel, you can check out IFC News Election Special 5: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About the Election but Were Afraid to Ask, hosted by Will Rabbe and Sarah Scully. (8:30 p.m.)
Discovery Channels has a new, presidential Dirty Jobs, recalling U.S. presidents who once held “dirty jobs” (but, presumably, not all the dirty jobs done by U.S. presidents).
No, it’s not more election coverage: the Animal Planet’s new episode of Weird, True & Freaky explores just that in nature, folks. Though it certainly sounds similar to what some of the anchors might be saying on the big networks at that very same time: “These animals are the result of intensive experimentations and genetically altered super-species. Vicious attacks. Ferocious free for alls. And fights to the death.” (8 p.m.)