Let’s set things straight, excuse the pun: The September issue of the Pillar, Utah’s fine monthly gay-lesbian-transgendered newspaper, erroneously reported that the dreaded new Dr. Laura TV show would be broadcast locally by KUTV 2. The Pillar got this info from the www.StopDrLaura.com website, who got their info from Viacom. Viacom owns, among far too many other media outlets, Paramount Television, the distributor of Dr. Laura—follow? Viacom also owns CBS and several CBS affiliates, including KUTV. Naturally, the thinking was that KUTV would bring Dr. Laura to the waiting TV screens of Zion.
Wrong. Aside from the ever-insufferable Rosie O’Donnell (recently acquired from Fox 13, lord knows why), KUTV’s daytime sked is talk show free—unless you count Utah Alive, which no one does.
Nope, the Pillar’s call to protest should have been directed at Utah’s TV Moral Authority, KSL 5, the station that proudly picked up Dr. Laura (weekdays, 3 p.m.) in time for its nationally syndicated debut last week. You know, the station that puts up with those darn gays and their sexy shows (like, say, the Emmy-winning Will & Grace) as long as they’re raking in the ratings green.
Now, I’m all in favor of anything that makes KSL squirm, but should the politically active readers of the Pillar hit the streets, as StopDrLaura.com supporters have done in several other major cities, and picket Broadcast House? If they can wake themselves up from the tedium-induced coma brought on by diligently observing a week of the duller-than-dirt Dr. Laura, sure.
Moral matron Schlessinger, currently heard on more than 450 radio stations (570 K-News in Salt Lake City) by an estimated 18 million listeners, has gained a rep as something of a homophobe in recent years, most likely from quotes like, “I call homosexual practices deviant,” and “It is a biological error.” She’s a little vague, but you get the gist.
Having accomplished all her success without a trace of talent or soul, where else is there for the doc to go? Television, of course. If a hyper-moralistic harpy with a voice like pitchforks on a chalkboard can succeed in radio, Paramount reasoned, then a hyper-moralistic harpy with a voice like pitchforks on a chalkboard and a face that resembles nothing less than a sun-bleached skull under a cheap wig would be TV gold. Hey, it worked with Judge Judy, another Paramount property.
Problem is, big-time radio stars don’t translate well to TV. Even though Howard Stern’s never-ending E! late-night TV show serves up the nekkid (obscured by pixelation) boobs ’n’ pubes, brain-dead guests and desperate B-celebs of his radio show, it’s still a stone-cold snooze—and it’s only 30 minutes long! Without benefit of Stern’s amazon strippers and drunk midgets, Jim Rome’s The Last Word (Fox Sports Net) and Don Imus’ Imus In the Morning (MSNBC) are about as exciting as, well, hanging out with Jim Rome and Don Imus without strippers or midgets.
And remember the Rush Limbaugh Show? No one does. After a much-hyped daytime launch in the early ’90s, the conservative commentator/comic’s dead-dull syndicated TV talk show was quickly relegated to 3 a.m. purgatory and eventually, as Rush would put it, assumed room temperature.
Dr. Laura will likely suffer the same type of undignified, I-wasn’t-fired-I-quit type of cancellation during this season or the next—not because Schlessinger’s “controversial” and groups like StopDrLaura.com are convincing advertisers to pull sponsorship bucks, but simply because the show is B-O-R-I-N-G (sorry, had to throw in some all-caps to wake even myself up).
Never mind that Dr. Laura’s set—staged theater-in-the-round style, all earth tones and woodsy trim augmented with a few hi-tech touches and the standard studio audience who are mostly paid seat-fillers—looks so much like every other daytime gabfest’s that you’d be hard-pressed to tell if it’s Sally, Ricki, Jenny or even Maury you’ve just tuned into. The TV Dr. Laura is even blander than her soundstage. Schlessinger set herself apart from the pack on radio by being different; with her new gig, she’s desperately trying to blend in. What up?
The first three weeks of Dr. Laura programs, already taped and in the can, reportedly never come within a square mile of anything resembling a “gay issue,” but StopDrLaura.com is forging ahead regardless. Utah SDL rep Kathy Worthington (who welcomes support at KathyWUT@aol.com or 963-7922) thinks local protests are more likely to be fiscal than physical: “I personally prefer to write letters, make phone calls and make personal visits to businesses that advertise on the show. I am encouraging others to do the same, but I would support a protest planned by someone else.”
Wait a few months; you won’t have to bother.