06/14/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Presidential Primaries: The Suprise Hit Of The TV Season

The most entertaining TV show on the air for the past five months has had it all: power-hungry lawyers, cross-country chases, snipers on airport tarmacs, fire-breathing preachers, and one famous former (White) Housewife looking more desperate by the day. That's right, we're talking about the 2008 Democratic primary race, which has been the best thing to happen to TV drama since what's-her-name shot J.R.

It used to be you had to rely solely on The Daily Show and The Colbert Report for consistent election entertainment. No longer. This year, as hit shows like Grey's Anatomy and CSI: Miami saw serious declines in viewership, ratings soared for CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News (at least by cable news standards) ever since the contests began in January -- with a debut episode called Iowa. Last March, Barack Obama's ''race speech'' in Philadelphia pulled more than 4 million viewers to the cable nets in the middle of a Tuesday, while Hillary Clinton's April tête-à-tête with Bill O'Reilly had 3.7 million tuning in just to Fox News. And on broadcast TV, ABC attracted a hefty audience of 11 million to April's Philadelphia debate. This was the 26th face-off of the season, a point when voters are usually crippled by talking-points fatigue.

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