Copyright © 1997 Henrietta W. Hay
The New Television Season
October 10, 1997
Some random thoughts on the new television season.
OK, so I confess to being a TV junkie. The coming of the satellite
dish was pretty exciting for a while until I realized its dangers. I
can barely hit all 38 channels at night between waking up on the couch
and wandering off to bed. If I had 500 I would never get any sleep.
They tell me that surfing the channels is a male trait. It may be
mostly a male habit, but it is obviously not genetic.
Television does have its serious and thought provoking moments. Last
year Ellen came out as a lesbian, and the world did not cease to rotate
on its axis. This year in a comedy show Murphy Brown develops breast
cancer, and a dramatic show called "Nothing Sacred" takes a slightly
frivolous look at a young priest.
My favorite TV person for many years has been Murphy Brown -- the same
Murphy that gave Dan Quayle so much to fuss about. There were a couple
of shaky years, but Diane English has returned as Executive Producer
and things are looking up. Murphy is now starting her tenth and
probably final year with a very daring concept for a comedy. She has
developed breast cancer. And she doesn't have time for it. According
to the reviews, the series is handled with honesty and sensitivity .
The humor is the kind real women use to cope.
Candice Bergen, who created Murphy, is a woman of great dignity and
charm. She talked for an hour with Larry King recently about growing up
with a dummy. She said that her father, Edgar Bergen treated her and
Charlie McCarthy pretty much like brother and sister, but Charlie's room
was bigger than hers. She discussed her husband's death and her
efforts to keep her daughter from the limelight. If anyone can carry
the cancer series off, Candice can.
If I won a contest and could have lunch with any TV personality I chose,
I would pick Candice Bergen or, if she were not available, Xena:
The new TV dramatic show, "Nothing Sacred," has aroused a great deal of
controversy. The conservative Catholic League for Religious and Civil
Rights is asking its members to boycott the show, and a number of
advertisers have pulled out. I have watched two episodes and thought
them very strong, sympathetic and thoughtful. The story concerns a
young priest who has questions about the meaning of faith, but who
ministers to his flock with deep concern and a little bit of humor.
Joanne Ostrow says, "There are moments that verge on being profound --
which is more than you can say for most of what fills the airwaves." If
I were Catholic, I would like to have a priest like Father Ray.
There must be some dramatic plots that do not involve doctors or cops,
but it is hard to find them. NYPD Blue is still going strong because
it spends more time on character development than guns and explosions
and bodies on the pavement. Xena: Warrior Princess ER and Chicago
Hope are busy patching people up and entertaining millions of Americans,
I can't comment much on sitcoms, because I ignore most of them. Am I
only one in the TV audience that dislikes those obstreperous laugh
tracks? I hate being patronized and told when to laugh.
One daytime show I have just found is, I think, worth attention. CNN
& Co has a moderator (female) and three very intelligent, well informed
women from various parts of the country discussing issues of the day.
Usually there is one on the left of an issue, one on the right and one
more or less in the in the middle, often a journalist. Last week they
had a woman whose husband was attending the Promise Keepers rally in
Washington, NOW president Patricia Ireland, and a woman Presbyterian
minister from New York. They included the Promise Keeper husband and
that one got pretty hot.
Lots of people say, "There's nothing on television that's worth
watching." Well now, there's a lot of entertainment and a lot of
information and a lot of junk, but you get to choose which is which.
Most sets have an on/off button and a channel selector.