By Tim Cuprisin Media Columnist Published Oct 19, 2011 at 11:00 AM

I've been casually watching the series of Republican presidential debates, and they've been informative, entertaining and sometimes funny.

Actually, a lot of times funny.

As I watched Tuesday night's two-hour gathering in Las Vegas (which aired on CNN) I focused on the funny.

No, this isn't a serious assessment of presidential politics. It's a tongue-in-cheek take on these TV characters, and their faux futures on cable niche markets.

I know the knee-jerk commenters will see this as an attack on Republicans, so let me start by saying that I see Barack Obama as the latest Mr. Spock – cold, aloof and boring enough to get canceled.

That "Star Trek" stuff, of course, makes him network-worthy. Since he has a history of actually winning the presidency, that makes sense. Although he could clearly be reduced to a niche audience over the next 12 months.

As the polls show, most of these seven Republican candidates from Tuesday night appeal to niches – all except one.

Mitt Romney – He's the only of the candidates who can cross over from cable to the networks, oozing the kind of bland niceness that could win him the central role in a sitcom, surrounded by six of his wacky friends. You know who I'm talking about, the folks who were up there on that stage Tuesday night in Las Vegas.

Rick Santorum – If ABC Family wasn't full of dramas that explore uncomfortable issues around teens, that would be a natural fit. But I'm guessing Santorum, who reminds us regularly (including last night) that he's a Roman Catholic, would be pretty darn comfortable on EWTN.

The Catholic TV outlet still hasn't found a good replacement for its founder, Mother Angelica.

Ron Paul – This is the meanest one of all, but I can't help it. I think about it every time I see the slightly rumpled congressman try to explain a fascinating range of positions that fit into his libertarian ideology.

Anybody remember Professor Irwin Corey? He was once a regular on Ed Sullivan's show, and was all over TV back in the 1960s. It's time to bring the wacky character. and Paul just has to muss up his hair a bit to fill the role.

Newt Gingrich – The former speaker of the House knows he's smarter than everybody else on the stage with him, and all the rest of us. Give him 90 minutes a day, commercial-free, on C-Span to teach us.

Rick Perry – C'mon, pardner. He's the reincarnation of Gary Cooper at his cowboy best, far more comfortable with doin' than he is with talkin'. After his first couple debate performances, he's pretty much lost the luster that could have earned him a network berth.

Instead, check him out on Encore Western Channel, where he can take care of all the bad guys, and doesn't have to talk, where he risks embarrassing himself.

Michele Bachmann – The paramilitary whites she wore at Tuesday's Vegas encounter could make her a candidate for the face of Discovery's Military Channel, or the captain of a starship on Syfy.

But her best TV home should be another Discovery outlet, TLC. Now that Kate Gosselin's "Kate Plus 8" has been axed, Michelle's "Michelle Plus Five Plus 23," offers even more kids than even the Duggars.

Herman Cain – OK, so you know he't the one with a future on Syfy channel, with a movie titled "Plan 999 from Outer Space."

When in modern American history has a new president had any major program make it through both houses of Congress intact – even if he had majorities in both?

That's not a comment on the plan. But since that's not how politics works, there has to be some power behind Cain to power his ideas. Some extra-terrestrial power (cue the weird music).

And the movie would be sponsored by Godfather's new nine-topping, nine-inch pizza for $9. Mmmmm, 999.

As long as we're talking about the presidency: A bunch of funny people got together to celebrate the 10th anniversary of former president Bill Clinton's "Clinton Initiative."

Here's the resulting video on

Tim Cuprisin Media Columnist

Tim Cuprisin is the media columnist for He's been a journalist for 30 years, starting in 1979 as a police reporter at the old City News Bureau of Chicago, a legendary wire service that's the reputed source of the journalistic maxim "if your mother says she loves you, check it out." He spent a couple years in the mean streets of his native Chicago, and then moved on to the Green Bay Press-Gazette and USA Today, before coming to the Milwaukee Journal in 1986.

A general assignment reporter, Cuprisin traveled Eastern Europe on several projects, starting with a look at Poland after five years of martial law, and a tour of six countries in the region after the Berlin Wall opened and Communism fell. He spent six weeks traversing the lands of the former Yugoslavia in 1994, linking Milwaukee Serbs, Croats and Bosnians with their war-torn homeland.

In the fall of 1994, a lifetime of serious television viewing earned him a daily column in the Milwaukee Journal (and, later the Journal Sentinel) focusing on TV and radio. For 15 years, he has chronicled the changes rocking broadcasting, both nationally and in Milwaukee, an effort he continues at

When he's not watching TV, Cuprisin enjoys tending to his vegetable garden in the backyard of his home in Whitefish Bay, cooking and traveling.