For Millions of Americans, Sunday mornings mean couching it in front of the tube, favorite coffee mug and bagel in hand, watching political TV talk shows. This viewing ritual is deeply rooted, traversing affiliations — party as well as personal. The guests and hosts of these shows are the political equivalent of rock stars: For die-hard fans with a little imagination, Robert Novak bears a resemblance to Ed Sullivan (with slightly less hair), while Richard Gephardt brings to mind Peter Frampton (with slightly less chest). The only thing missing from the weekly performances are the live audiences. Except, of course, in Washington, where “Meet the Press” takes on an entirely new meaning.
Betting a front row seat to one kind of show is easy, costs nothing, and, in the autumn, includes blue skies and fresh air. Just bring your thermos of Starbucks, map a course for the major studios and let the stargazing begin. Relax with the Post or, better yet, a portable TV while you wait. You won’t be alone, either. As you’re waiting to shake hands with your political heroes, watch journalists milling about, hoping for a photo or sound bite as the bold names enter or exit the networks.
But how to catch their attention? Through the years, many fans have been disappointed when their idols are whisked away by handlers in waiting limos. But a political groupie requires (happily) a more mature sense of refinement then, say, a Van Halen fan. No breast-baring is necessary — at least not in public. No, to be a true member of the politi-rati, conduct yourself with decorous enthusiasm. If you happen to have a baby in the family, bring him or her along for a kissing opportunity. Pets can also be lovable attention-grabbers. Once Tim “Little Russ” Russert has paused to shake the paw of your puppy, he’ll probably be more amenable to signing your copy of Big Russ and Me (Miramax, $13.77).
Scheduling your life as part of the Sunday morning poli-wood crowd couldn’t be easier, as the Sunday morning shows list their topics and guests on their Web sites. Plot a course to studios such as ABC (1717 DeSales Street NW, www.abc.com), CBS (2020 M Street NW, www.cbs.com), CNN (820 First Street NE, www.cnn.com), or FOX (400 North Capitol Street NW, www.foxnews.com), and plan your weekly excursion accordingly. In no time, your autograph book could be overflowing with names of political voices who, while preferring Brooks Brothers to spandex, can sing just as loud as their guitar-slinging counterparts.
After working up a healthy appetite, stroll to the Dupont Circle Freshfarm market before its 1 p.m. closing (20th Street NW between Q Street and Massachusetts Avenue, 202-331-7300, www.freshfarmmarket.org) to sample local apples and early pumpkin as well as homemade cheese, baked goods and herbal products from 30 farmers. Now you’ve had your fill of pundit-watching for the day, and your appetite is satiated as well, so take your kids, pup and/or significant other for a leisurely walk, jog, or bicycle along the towpath on the scenic C&O Canal (which begins at Rock Creek Parkway, between Pennsylvania Avenue and Whitehurst Freeway), or perhaps the Capital Cresent Trail in Georgetown, paralleling the canal to Bethesda (beginning at Water Street NW, under the freeway). You’re prepped to share the latest political dish — de riguer in the nation’s capital — if you meet or make friends along the way.