Bozell's Column

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... continue reading
Bill Clinton's decision to unleash the dogs of war as he tip-toes on the precipice of impeachment conjures up a vision of White House defense lawyer Greg Craig appearing before Congress declaring: "The President's military action was evasive, incomplete, misleading, even maddening - but it's not impeachable." There's no dodging the suspicion that Clinton is seeking to save his bacon by dropping some megatonnage on Saddam Hussein. After all, it's just what he did when he bombed Osama bin Laden's alleged facilities in Sudan and Afghanistan this summer. Both actions were launched with little or no consultation with Congress, and... continue reading
Late in November, the show-business trade paper the Hollywood Reporter published its 68th anniversary issue. The cover headline, a tip of the hat to Mad magazine's Alfred E. Neuman, read, "What, Me Sexy? Hollywood gets raunchy and sets a nation giggling." Some may be giggling, but judging by plummeting ratings numbers, most are appalled by the pervasive raciness of today's entertainment-television fare. It's no longer just the "religious right" or other social conservatives who are speaking out. Many TV critics have publicly denounced the trend, as have a handful of those working in the industry. Steve Allen, who embodies as... continue reading
Dan Rather started out the Clinton years by publicly embracing the Clintons. About 100 days in, he told the President at a CBS affiliates meeting "If we could be one-hundredth as great as you and Hillary Rodham Clinton have been in the White House, we'd take it right now and walk away winners." As the nightly content of the "CBS Evening News" demonstrates, he's never lost that loving feeling. Rather had another chance to display his ardor on the December 3 "Larry King Live." He did not disappoint. First, he declared his passionate hatred for the Monica Lewinsky story, wishing... continue reading
Diane Sawyer's recent "20/20" interview with Kenneth Starr proves with a vengeance that the media culture's take on Monicagate has become positively Orwellian: Good is Evil. Space doesn't allow a recital of all the objectionable Carvillesque attacks Sawyer proudly launched on this soft-spoken officer of the law. So let's just explore the themes. 1. Repression. Sawyer suggested Starr was disqualified for the Monicagate probe because of his personal opposition to adultery. The segment began: "Tonight, an exclusive interview with independent counsel Kenneth Starr, a man accused of trying to impose his personal beliefs on everyone else." Flip to Sawyer asking... continue reading
Two years ago, after I lauded "Home Improvement" for its positive - and, in the context of today's prime time network fare, anomalous - portrayal of marriage and family, Entertainment Weekly's Ken Tucker accused me in print of disliking series which "contain mature or complex moral issues that adults like you and I might enjoy." Not incidentally, Tucker also called "Home Improvement" "stupid." Actually, I thought "Home Improvement," its praiseworthy moral lessons aside, was funny as well. When it comes to humor, however, there truly is no accounting for taste. For example, why does Tucker, who claims to appreciate maturity... continue reading
There no longer is any doubt in my mind that Western civilization as we know it is finished. Kaput. History. While some of us (the Clinton administration excepted) fretted over the proliferation of nuclear missiles worldwide; chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction being produced in the Middle East; and a Vast Right Wing Conspiracy at home, something far more sinister, far more destructive was occurring right under our noses. We are stupefying ourselves to death. Pick up a paper - any paper - any day and you'll read the evidence of our collective cultural meltdown at the hands of... continue reading
Several years ago, TV talk show sleaze pioneer Phil Donahue drew a raft of negative publicity for claiming it was time to expose the TV public to a criminal's execution, preferably on his show, preferably during a sweeps period. Few doubted that showing an execution on television would weaken public support for capital punishment, which Donahue stated was his intention. But most stories cut through the public-interest spin to see it for what it was: a blatant grab for free publicity and ratings. Permission was denied. But, as they say, that was then and in enlightened 1998, the rules have... continue reading
When the Paula Jones sexual harassment lawsuit against Bill Clinton was dismissed on April Fool's Day, members of the "objective" news media popped champagne corks with the President's aides to celebrate. When the President's lawyers settled out of court with Jones for $850,000, the media reaction was just a fatigued sigh of relief. Any relevant points connected with the settlement were already yesterday's news. In very brief obituaries of the Jones suit, the networks all focused on how Clinton settled because he "was not prepared to spend even one more hour on the matter." Only NBC's Lisa Myers and the... continue reading
At a November 9 banquet, Broadcasting & Cable magazine inducted eight men and three women into its Hall of Fame. Television producer David Kelley, who's won best-dramatic-series Emmys for "Picket Fences" and "The Practice," was the only inductee whose acceptance speech was excerpted at length in the next issue of B&C because, according to the magazine's introduction to his remarks, his "theme...seemed to resonate with the crowd." That theme was "responsibility." Kelley told of taking part in boyhood horse-trotting races; how his competitors several times won illegally by making their horses gallop; how he finally won a race by using... continue reading