American television stations came within 48 hours of spontaneously combusting this week.
If the mission to eliminate Osama Bin Laden had taken place on the day of the royal wedding, I shudder to think of the cataclysmically polarising effect this would have had on the networks over here.
We’re in the States at the moment visiting number one son and his family – so we had a front-row seat as the news channels grappled with the two biggest stories of recent years.
Glossy overkill is a way of life on CBS, CNN and Fox News, and even the most mundane stories get the full treatment.
Screens are not so much split as fragmented, ‘news alert’ warnings explode out of nowhere, correspondents pop up from all over the world, a non-stop loop of repetitive information is run and platoons of pundits stand by to add their four penn’orth.
It all reminds me of a comment made by a friend while he was watching a battle scene in Spartacus: “There’s so much going on I can’t see a damned thing.”
All the stations drenched themselves in the nuptials of Wills and Kate and sensibly relied on British expertise.
“Thank God for Piers Morgan,” is not a comment I ever thought I’d commit to print, but he certainly carried CNN’s coverage which was hosted by a hapless character called Anderson Cooper.
His contributions included a reference to ‘Sir John Elton’, and this bemused observation about the Blues and Royals: “They’re not wearing costumes are they? They’re actual uniforms, right?”
He was slapped down at every turn by Morgan, who revelled in describing Britain at its Ruritanian best.
The channels were still ringing every last drop out of the occasion 48 hours later when news began to filter through about the death of Osama bin Laden.
Suddenly, it was as if Westminster Abbey, Pippa Middleton’s backside and the Duke of Edinburrow had never existed.
The mood became solemn (though laced with barely-suppressed joy) and the talking heads changed instantly.
Experts on British tradition and etiquette were replaced by grizzled CIA veterans; senators pontificated where once dress designers had swooned and twittered.
But what fun it would have been if the royal walk up the aisle had coincided with the attack on that compound in Pakistan.