1998: That, Too, Was Entertainment
by L. Brent Bozell III
In 1998, the country's most popular soap opera took place
in real life. Allow me, dear reader, to give you a reprieve from the sordid
mess in Washington by bringing you the year's winners and losers from the
other entertainment industry, Hollywood.
Losers: CBS boss Mel Karmazin and his toilet-tongued meal
ticket, Howard Stern. During the massive promotional blitz earlier this year,
these two characters predicted "The Howard Stern Radio Show" would
beat NBC's "Saturday Night Live" in the ratings. Wrong. Stern's
sewage is generating only one-third of "SNL"'s audience, and
eleven stations (and counting) have dropped him. Karmazin and Stern deserve
each other; the public doesn't deserve either one.
Winner: The WB's "7th Heaven," not
only a first-rate family show but also the third-fastest-growing series in
prime time, with viewership increasing 28 percent in the past year. During the
November sweeps, it was the most-watched program on its network, ahead of the
far-more-hyped "Felicity" and "Dawson's Creek," which
reminds me of our next...
Loser: "Dawson's Creek" creator Kevin
Williamson, who, speaking of the show's notorious teacher-student affair,
told Playboy, "That relationship is based on romance, and I think
that's why...the Moral Majority has gone after it. It's probably not the
most responsible relationship on television in terms of right-wing philosophy,
but it certainly is...nonjudgmental [and] endearing."
Memo to Mr. Williamson: a) The Moral Majority ceased to
exist a decade ago; and b) Bill Clinton needs your spin services. Fast.
Winner: The movie industry, which agreed that films' web
sites would have to pass muster with the Motion Picture Association of
America. These sites, which often have featured envelope-pushing material, now
must adhere to the same taste guidelines as posters, television ads, and other
forms of movie promotion.
Loser: Bravo, the arts cable network which is giving
factually challenged leftist filmmaker Michael Moore ("Roger &
Me") another shot on television. Beginning in April, Bravo will run
Moore's "alternative" newsmagazine, "The Awful Truth,"
arguably the most unfortunate show title in the history of television. The
awful truth about Moore is that he's awful at telling the truth.
Winner: Fidel Castro, who declared that American popular
culture "transmits poisonous messages, in the social and moral order, to
all families, to all homes, to all children."
Loser: Fidel Castro, whose wretched Communist system in Cuba
transmits poisonous messages, in the social and moral order, to all families,
to all homes, to all children.
Losers: Ellen DeGeneres and Anne Heche, for general
obnoxiousness and specifically for whining about how they're treated in
Hollywood, the place which, regrettably, heaped fame and fortune on them both.
They have announced their intention to leave the public eye. Now wouldn't
that be grand!
Winner: Tom Hanks, for his gutsy remarks about Clinton.
Loser: Tom Hanks, for immediately reversing himself on his
gutsy remarks about Clinton.
Winner: DreamWorks SKG, for the breathtaking "Prince of
Egypt." Move over, Disney, because DreamWorks is now the king of animated
Losers: Playwrights Terrence McNally, for his
religion-bashing drama "Corpus Christi," and Paul Rudnick, for his
religion-mocking comedy "The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told."
According to the New York Times, Rudnick's work, which debuted in
mid-December, "retells the Bible from a flamboyantly gay
perspective" and opens in an Eden occupied by Adam and Steve, who
"begin naming everything in the garden, including their own body
parts." And, yes, the play includes "full frontal nudity."
Winner: PAX TV, taking small but significant steps toward
becoming the only quality, full-time family broadcast network.
Loser: The Fox network, which plans as many of its slimy
animals-attacking, cars-crashing "reality" shows in '99 as it
produced in '98. Among the less exploitative topics: "Cheating
Spouses Caught on Tape" and "medical oddities." Worse are two
motorcycle-jump specials featuring Evel Knievel's son Bobby (in the second
- scheduled, of course, for a sweeps period - he will "attempt to
jump a portion of the Grand Canyon") and one featuring the deliberate
sinking of a ship, complete with stuntmen trying to escape before it slips
beneath the water's surface.
Winner of the year: Comedian Steve Allen, who in 1998 came
roaring back into the public spotlight, this time leading a national campaign
to clean up the filth on television.
Hollywood would be well advised to listen to Mr. Allen. Why?
Because the loser of the year is the entire television industry, broadcast and
cable. Overall TV use among 18-to-49-year-olds dropped by four percent in
November; for the season, viewing among 18-to-34-year-olds is down six
percent. The networks responded to the bad news by blaming the messenger,
In not taking responsibility for its mistakes, the TV
business was like, well, Bill Clinton. And so it went in 1998.
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