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'Counts' doesn't add up to much

October 17, 2002|Scott Sandell | Times Staff Writer

What was the bigger joke of the 2000 presidential election: Al Gore's claims of victory or George Bush's prevailing? No matter your answer, there's no dispute that the whole fiasco was a rich source of humor.

There's also no denying that the balloting irregularities and court battles led many to reexamine the voting process.

"Who Counts? Election Reform in America," a new documentary on KCET at 10 tonight, tries to blend comedy with a sobering look at suffrage, but it ends up being an unsatisfying mishmash. It allows neither the impressionist talents of "Saturday Night Live's" Darrell Hammond nor the news skills of former CNN Washington bureau chief Frank Sesno to shine. Hammond delivers his jokes via a trio of characters: Bill Clinton, Gore and Dick Cheney. His Cheney fares the worst, declaring: "In voter turnout, America has now climbed to No. 120 out of 169 nations. We've left Mexico in our wake, and we're hot on the heels of the Dominican Republic. So I think it's obvious that we've got a system that works."

Sesno's reporting shows that it doesn't work, or at least not as well as it should, but his squarish delivery clashes with the loud graphics and MTV-style interviews meant to juice things up.

Despite its late time slot, "Who Counts?" seems aimed at primarily young viewers. But the show's patronizing tone may leave them asking, "Who cares?"

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