January 4 - January 10, 1996

Eighth Day

BILL DIGS TV: I'm not surprised about the problem former Secretary of Education William Bennett seems to have with talk television. He doesn't like to get down in the dirt. He didn't when he was supposedly working to set higher standards for education and he doesn't now.

His perfect family, hugged by an overstuffed couch and an expensive view, smiled at me from the dust cover of his latest book, thoughtfully displayed in front of the Condoms at the grocery store. They looked like "Father Knows Better than Anyone."

People like Bennett who are flailing against "Trash TV" don't like the idea of nastiness. They don't want to see parents who had their children arrested, wives who spy on former lovers, friends who fight over men who used to beat ex-wives. They fear we will take on these images and recreate them in our designer interiors, TV set humming in the background.

As Gomer Pyle used to say, "Surprise, surprise, surprise." The schlock-talk audience is already doing just that. The people on the screen scream just like the family next door; Homes abound with teens pregnant for the second and third time; Down the street is the kid with 16 piercings and a shovel branded on her upper arm. If Bennett took his eyes off the television set, he might see real problems, like inside the schools he did nothing to aid when he had the power.

What was first highly attractive about junk chat shows was the chance to openly eavesdrop on acutely private affairs of mammals like us. This was exciting--the first six times. The reason their ratings began to drop in big numbers, even before Bennett began yanking the cord, is that the same stories were told over and over again by people who all began to look the same. They're boring. Frankly, we had better fights in my house.

And when the National Association of Television Program Executives meets this month, it's ratings that will get their interest. Bennett won't be on their minds--he's just not that powerful--and besides, he's sleeping with the enemy.

Our Bill has turned electronic media man. The PBS series Adventures from the Book of Virtues, based upon his Book of Virtues, should be gracing your screens shortly. Your government supported screens, I might add. That's the same network, you may remember, that No-Tax-Bucks-for-Public-Television Bennett used to rally against.

But times change. PBS is now partnering with Turner Home Entertainment. You know Turner as the group sleeping with Time Warner of gangsta rap recording fame, another Bennett favorite. But after all, Bill's 10 animated shows need a home somewhere.

Bennett, who is also reportedly not too fond of MTV, might note that his own publisher, Simon and Shuster, is the legitimate child of MTV and media giant Viacom. When reporters questioned Bennett about these incestuous links, he said, "What are you going to do? Four companies control everything."

Now there's something to discuss in a book of virtues, warriors.

--Hannah Glasston

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January 4 - January 10, 1996

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