TV

Convention-al

Tonight marks the first night of network coverage of the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., followed by coverage of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, NC next week.

Or, as I like to call it, the first night of watching anything else.

I write this in a totally non-partisan way, because either convention offers the viewer the exact same thing: hours of free TV time which serves as either a long commercial for the candidate or bashing the other party.

I don't think they actually sway very many undecided voters, so really, they are just there to energize the base of the party for their candidate.

To me, it's a larger indictment of the party system in this country, in general. Each party sways to the values of their candidate, meaning that it doesn't really mean anything to be a "Democrat" or "Republican." Certainly, the Republican Party platform would have looked very different this week had someone like Ron Paul or Rick Santorum gotten the nomination over Mitt Romney, just like the Democratic Party platform would have been different four years ago had Hillary Clinton beaten out Barack Obama for the nomination.

In England, the parties come up with their agendas and pick their leader from within. So, to belong to the Conservative or Labour parties mean that everyone within those parties are pretty much on the same page.

To me, the political debates in the upcoming weeks of Obama vs. Romney and Biden vs. Ryan are much more interesting and much more useful for undecided voters to decide which candidate they want to support. At least there, the candidates are forced to defend their positions and think somewhat on their feet, as opposed to hours of canned speeches during the conventions.

Anyway, for those that are interested, the networks have boiled their coverage down to an hour each night at 10 p.m., but the various cable networks -- CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, as well as PBS -- will show much more extended coverage throughout the day.

TUESDAY'S BEST BETS: Fortunately, the conventions won't disrupt too much programming, since there's not much new stuff on.

ABC Family has new episodes of "Pretty Little Liars"  and "Beverly Hills Nannies" from 8-10 p.m., while USA is new with "White Collar" and "Covert Affairs" from 9-11 p.m.

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