As I understand them, the debates (and, indeed, the primary process in general) are supposed to start as early as possible so that, where previously you thought there were many potentially acceptable or even exciting candidates for the highest office in the land, you might at your leisure discover exactly why they are all vile, problematic boils.
I am glad the Democratic National Committee is committed to this understanding of the process. I can’t wait to discover specific, detailed reasons to loathe every possible contender! So I, for one, am relieved there will be at least 12 debates, with not too many participants, chosen at random so as not to create the perception of a kids' table.
I managed to get a glimpse of the planned debate themes. They are as follows:
Debate 1: The candidates will be forced to play “unpopular opinion” and state one opinion they think will alienate everyone else there. If even one other person agrees, they must continue to play until no one does.
Debate 2: Everyone must be photographed from a weird angle trying to eat corn on the cob. No questions will be asked.
Debate 3: A pop-up debate will be live-streamed from the headquarters of BuzzFeed or Between Two Ferns to show that the candidates are in touch with millennial culture. Everyone in this debate will come away looking terrific!
Debate 4: The candidates stride through a cornfield wearing button-down shirts to show that they understand the Trump Voter. Every question will be asked by a man at a gas station with a mug of hot coffee and some very strong opinions about manufacturing. Everyone in this debate will come away looking kind of meh.
Debate 5: The fifth debate will be invisible. You will turn on your TV and there will be nothing. But when you go to Twitter, everyone will be responding as usual, and you will have to piece the events of the fifth debate together from context clues. The Twitter battles will be bitter and devastating.
Debate 6: The sixth debate will be bad luck. A Thing Without a Name will be released and will haunt all the participants, preventing them from leaving the early primary states. Still, they will actually manage to debate the stated subject, alarming everyone.
Debate 7: The survivors of the sixth debate will attempt to subdue the Thing Without a Name. They will succeed, but at what cost? This debate was supposed to be about domestic policy.
Debate 8: By the eighth debate, no candidate will have slept in more than a month. They will all be forced to fight a gerrymander. They will not win.
Debate 9: The ninth debate will just be incoherent screaming for three hours, and at the end of it, one candidate will have entirely melted.
Debate 10: The candidates will all nap, but on CNN, everyone will agree that some of them napped much more convincingly than others and that this is when this starts to matter.
Debate 11: By the 11th debate, your favorite candidate will have entirely transformed into a hated, Gollum-like figure whose name it pains you to utter, whose hideous, bloodshot eyes and lizard snout give them a tactical if not a strategic advantage over the remaining two contenders, who have shed their pleasing skins and revealed themselves to be a courageous but foolhardy toaster and a malevolent sock puppet. You will hate everything and everyone. No one will win, although only one will survive.
Debate 12: The 12th debate will consist entirely of an hour of announcing eight more debates.
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