Sunday, May 11, 2008

Washington Week In Review in Philly

Mr. J and I had a real treat on Friday. We had tickets to attend the live taping of "Washington Week in Review," held in Penn's Irvine Auditorium. It was wonderful. As we sat waiting Mr. J said at some point during the taping someone would shout "We love you, Gwen," at host Gwen Ifill. "No, I said. Not this crowd." But, sure enough, as she was standing in the aisle getting ready for the show someone shouted "We love you, Gwen!"

First there were announcements, such as once we got started we had to stay put, no bathroom breaks, and to remember we were being filmed and not to do anything we didn't want broadcast, and a note from the fire marshal. We had to turn off cell phones, not just put them on vibrate. There were introductions from WHYY and sponsor AARP (see

When Ifill came out she received a standing ovation. It was interesting watching everyone get set up for the show. At least that evening the coffee cups were filled with water. It was also very clear that the panelists, Dan Balz, Jeanne Cummings, Karen Tumulty, and Mike Viqueira, got along well. A great deal of camaraderie was also evident. They joked and talked and clearly knew each other's family situations. This really came into play once the show got started. The conversation flowed easily. Ifill could indicate who should speak next and who pause by a gentle movement of the pen in her hand. The panelists themselves ceded the floor to each other effortlessly but without seeming rehearsed. The show is available as a podcast so I won't comment on it other than to say that the commercials were broadcast in the background and not put in later, and that the show went off without a hitch, no flubs that had to be re-shot.

After the show was finished we taped an additional 30 minute Q&A. The questions had been decided at some point in advance. I don't know what the process was but some people along the center aisle had orange cards with their questions on them. Since Gwen was in the audience for this part her seat on stage was taken by Inquirer political reporter Larry Eichel, who is quite dapper in person. There was a problem getting the microphone on his necktie working. A woman on the show's technical staff tried to fix it from the back, standing behind him and reaching around to clip the mike to his tie. That didn't work so she came around and squatted in front of him to position it, with more success.

The Q&A also went smoothly. Some of the questions were a little hard to follow and some were on topics that the panelists couldn't possibly answer, geared more towards candidates than journalists. Ifill walked along the aisle and selected the people to ask questions. Again, the panelists worked together to answer questions, without talking over each other or arguing.

Ifill was very at ease, and seemed very genuine, funny, and not at all pretentious. We had a great time. Having seen the show taped live will make watching it on Friday evenings even more enjoyable.

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