"Can we possibly get past the idea that politics is a reality show?" says Hank Stuever. "Fat chance. Having subjected us to two nights of garishly adorned, overproduced, conflict-obsessed live 'debates' among a field of 20 Democratic hopefuls (its own delusional gridlock of egos), CNN and the Democratic National Committee summoned the worst aspects of some of TV’s most popular genres and visual tropes. The overall tone, of course, was cable-news alarmism, but the debates also resembled those celebrity-packed, prime-time game shows that litter the schedule all summer. One also got wafts of the blaring bombast of professional football broadcasts, and, yes, the stage-managed awkwardness of the lesser styles of reality TV...While the candidates were necessarily prepared to spar with one another (otherwise known as campaigning), CNN’s format facilitated a frenetic game of human darts, with questions designed to goad the jabbing. It was a never-ending two-night competition of lightning rounds, in 30- and 15-second rebuttals to one-minute answers. Tuesday night’s opening round felt like a series of people being interrupted in mid-sentence, with CNN anchors Jake Tapper, Dana Bash and Don Lemon calling time limits as soon as anyone had anything interesting to say. Wednesday night was only slightly better, but never quite achieved the mood of actual discourse. Instead, we were watching CNN make television — pieces and bites and clips of which it can repurpose into more programming fodder, days’ worth of pundit banter, befitting the network that overhyped the event for weeks with name-drawings, a countdown clock and relentless reminders to watch."