“Don't do it,” said Gregory Rodriguez in the Los Angeles Times. “Don't tune in” to this year’s political conventions, which start this week with the Democrats’ big pageant in Denver. In a country where freedom, with all its unpredictability, is supposed to reign, the “elaborately conceived stagecraft” of our political conventions are symbols of everything that’s wrong with our “canned culture.”

It has been a long time since the conventions had anything to do with fighting for the nomination, said The Arizona Republic in an editorial, but even today’s packaged affairs are “worth watching.” Viewers only see what the parties choose to show us, and that makes the conventions a useful window on the candidates’ “vision for a nation that faces a great many challenges.”

Political conventions have been dying a slow death for 100 years, said John Harwood in The New York Times’ The Caucus blog, but the “convention klieg lights still have the capacity to illuminate new, little known political stars who may dominate future races for the White House.” It happened for John F. Kennedy in 1956, Bill Clinton in 1988, and “for Illinois state Senator Barack Obama in 2004.”

There’s no doubt conventions can be “defining moments,” said Matthew Tully in The Indianapolis Star, for elections and for careers. Chances are that neither Obama this week nor his rival John McCain next week will emerge as the clear favorite in November, but “political junkies” will be glued to the screen. Scripted or not, the conventions are the Olympics of politics.