The process of running for president is deadly serious business. Except when it's completely ridiculous. That's the lesson of "Diary of a Political Tourist" (7 p.m., HBO) the second in a series of campaign trail "home movies" by filmmaker Alexandra Pelosi.
Pelosi's amusing 2002 film, "Journeys with George" captured candid moments on the 2000 campaign with then-Gov. George Bush. In its attempts to document the entire Democratic primary process, "Diary" is both more ambitious and less focused.
Starting in early 2003, we see candidates go to desperate, and at times ridiculous lengths to get voters' attention. At first it seems as if the entire political process is one long visit to a county fair. Sen. Joseph Lieberman submits to a challenge to devour a deep-fried Twinkie, and then tells Pelosi that he would have eaten it even if he weren't running for President.
Pelosi contrasts such humble moments with scenes of a swank party on the White House lawn. There President Bush asks her just how much money he has made for Pelosi. Republican operatives dance and shimmy to Motown music. As Pelosi reaches for what she calls a "White House Margarita," the film begins to resemble a slightly dowdy wedding reception.
The film does a good job of capturing the "arc" of the primary struggle, particularly the meteoric rise and fall of Howard Dean's candidacy. But the best parts are moments like watching Sen. Bob Graham's children and grandchildren singing their campaign theme songs. A concert for Rep. Dick Gephardt is called "Gephardt-palooza," a term the congressmen does not seem to understand. Sen. Kerry plays in a hockey benefit and plays with Pelosi's camera. Sen. Edwards is beset with young women who dub him the "hottie" of the primaries, and Sen. Lieberman sings "My Way," and manages to stay in tune. For reasons never explained, Rev. Al Sharpton does not appear.
Tonight's other highlights
- "National Anthem" (5:30 p.m., Sundance) offers a documentary look at the "Vote for Change" concert series.
- Leelee Sobieski stars in the 2001 thriller "The Glass House" (7 p.m., Fox). If necessary, this film will be preempted by Major League baseball.
- Debra's sense of style raises eyebrows on "Everybody Loves Raymond" (8 p.m., CBS).
- Andy tangles with the town's favorite resident (new cast member Anne Heche) on "Everwood" (8 p.m., WB).
- The Green Bay Packers and Tennessee Titans meet on "Monday Night Football" (8 p.m., ABC).