Alessandra Stanley, the New York Times's reporter on the TV beat, framed the 2008 presidential campaign in her own inimitable way in the lead story of the special Emmy section of Sunday's paper, terming the Barack-Hillary contest the hit of the season in "No Debate: It's Great TV."
But Stanley really stretched things when, in a slanted attempt to get John McCain into the mix, she cited hypothetical people who prefer the original, rather campy Battlestar Galactica series, starring Lorne Greene, to the award-winning re-launch on the Sci Fi Channel.
Bad times and good candidates also made a difference, and no one changed the status quo more than Mr. Obama, who quite obviously deserves an Emmy for his role as the lead actor in a Democratic primary. "Mad Men," the AMC drama about raffish advertising executives in 1960, has already won two Golden Globe awards and certainly deserves Emmy recognition. Mr. Obama is the "Mad Men" of the election season, an entirely new and different political persona whose cool and easy elegance (and former cigarette habit) referenced an earlier postwar era of American confidence and optimism but also revived old, still unresolved issues of race and gender.
Mrs. Clinton, of course, dominates the lead actress category, but she has suffered not only from her own mistakes, but also from the projections of voters who impose the scrim of their own marriages and careers over her candidacy -- in all its multiple personalities. Mrs. Clinton may never have revealed her true self entirely or exorcized all her inner demons, but like the HBO therapy dramas "In Treatment" and "Tell Me You Love Me," she forced many voters to confront their own.
And while nobody would describe John McCain as a best supporting actor to either Mr. Obama or Ms. Clinton, his brash, needling presence on the campaign trail helped quicken the pulse of the Democratic primary. On his own turf Mr. McCain is a little like the Sci Fi channel cult hit "Battlestar Galactica." Just as some hard-core followers of the original 1978 science fiction series about a fleet of starships fighting a robot insurrection could never accept today's reworked version, many voters who supported Mr. McCain as an anti-establishment maverick in the 2000 Republican primary cannot accept him in his new incarnation as a conservative Republican courting the evangelical right.
And like the Sci Fi series, Mr. McCain, with occasional puckishness, can tap in to voters' darkest fears of terrorist aggression and apocalyptic doom.