“Hey look! Fox News, American Idol, and Monday Night Football had a threesome and it made a baby named the Southern Republican Presidential Debate!”

That was my first thought, anyway, as I watched my first Republican Primary debate of the season two nights ago. I was really surprised at the opening dramatization of the event on CNN.  If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you absolutely must watch the first few minutes of the video below (especially :40 to 2:30):

So, what do you think?  Does this smack of sensationalism to you?  Is this just what TV looks like these days?  Without being overly nostalgic, how does this compare to the mood of previous debates?  How might this framing of the debates affect how people think of the presidency, our government, the process?

Lisa Wade, PhD is a professor at Occidental College. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture, and a textbook about gender. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.