Ominous music plays in one TV promo for tonight’s first presidential debate, before an announcer declares “the gloves are coming off.” In another, a Spanish-language network shows its correspondents prepping for “La Gran Batalla”—the great battle. And a third promo could have doubled as a teaser trailer for a Hollywood action movie.
It’s hard to recall an election in recent US history more heated than this year’s battle for the presidency. Countless campaign and get-out-the-vote ads have stressed that the stakes have never been higher.
As candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump prepare for the first presidential debate, which airs live tonight (Sept. 26) on various platforms, TV networks have promoted the debate as if it’s a pay-per-view boxing event—featuring bold graphics that show the candidates facing off against each other, suspenseful music, ringside-announcer-style voice overs, and a markedly confrontational tone.
Viewers, it seems, are indeed eager to see how the contenders fare in the metaphorical ring: Tonight’s inaugural debate is expected to draw more than 100 million viewers—an audience on par with that of the Super Bowl.
Australia’s ABC News was one of the most explicit in the boxing comparison, as the trade publication Newscast Studio points out, building the tension with ominous music and quick cuts between angry-faced images of the two candidates, and building up to the pronouncement that ”the gloves are coming off.”
The Spanish-language broadcaster Telemundo is billing the event as “La Gran Batalla”—the great battle. Its sister network, MSNBC, also uses quick cuts and is promoting the debate as a “face off one-on-one.”
CNN, which in past debates has evoked heavyweight fights with boxing bells, served up a trailer for that uses dark, intimidating graphics and a soundtrack fitting for a Hollywood thriller. (I half-expected a clock to start ticking and 24‘s Jack Bauer to appear.) The network is also running its much-maligned countdown clock leading up to the start of the event today.
C-SPAN’s promo, which begins with two rather positive and tactful quotes from the two candidates, is by far the most sensible ad for the event—but really, where’s the fun in that?