The Usual Place

by Bernard McCormick Tuesday, May 31, 2011 No Comment(s)

It seems to work like this. Guy or gal gets a job hosting a political affairs show on TV. Producer says ratings, ratings, we’re getting slaughtered, say something outrageous, make news, mock somebody, create scandal. On-air personality does just that and all hell breaks loose. On-air personality gets suspended or fired for extreme bad taste and reckless conduct in front of a live audience.

Just recently, it has happened twice. Keith Olbermann on MSNBC went out of his way to be controversial, with stuff like the “Worst Person in the World" segment and liberal vitriolic criticism of the enemy political camp. And then he’s off the air, for whatever reason, whether it was for contributing to political campaigns or maybe his boss just didn’t like him. Even more recently, Ed Schultz, whose “The Ed Show” has both a stupid name and an often stupid format, got suspended for calling some right-wing lady a “right-wing slut.”

That is disgusting, of course, especially if it were true, which it probably isn’t, because right-wing folks are fundamentally fundamentalist, and therefore incapable of being sluts. But it is not as disgusting as this trend to compete for TV ratings by sending out personalities whose personality consists of interminable and angry rants against the party or politician on the other side of the fence.

It probably started with Rush Limbaugh, who got rich with the gig, but now everybody is trying to do it. This is different from the casual errors which have threatened other careers, such as Jimmy the Greek, who should learn never say anything for the record while partying, or Howard Cosell, who learned never say anything on the air {“Look at that little monkey run!”) until the bar has closed in the press box.

We speak, rather, of contrived sensationalism. Which is what modern TV is about. One can imagine the producer warming up the star personality.

“Ratings suck. Go out and offend somebody.”

“Like who. Or is it whom?”

“Don’t worry about it. Call somebody a slut. Just get the audience up. Get some publicity. O’Reilly is killing us.”

So the bum goes out and remembers a name and calls a broad a slut. Ten minutes later all hell breaks loose.

“Why did you do that?” screams the producer. “Are you crazy?”

“You told me to,” says the on-air personality.

“I did? I never said that. And if I did, I was only kidding. You’re fired.”

“You can’t fire me. I have three years left on my contract. You owe me $2 million.”

“Good point. Let’s talk about it.”

“Usual place?”

“Twenty minutes.”

“Do you mind if O’Reilly joins us?”

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