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Life out here by Bret Kofford: Goodbye doctor

April 11, 2001

Dr. Laura, syndicated columnist Cal Thomas and many of their fellow travelers are blaming "the homosexual lobby" for the rapid cancellation of Laura Schlessinger's television show.

Actually, I don't think the demise of the show had much to do with Dr. Laura having offended the homosexual lobby (which, one would think, would be a marvelously decorated lobby). Nor do I think the show's quick sinking had anything to do with the host's sometimes reprehensible off-air behavior.

There was one big reason the show was spurned by viewers.

It was a terrible television program.

Actually, I was rooting for Dr. Laura's television show to succeed. I believe it is good for our nation that a diversity of viewpoints be exposed, even if some of those opinions are angry and ugly. Such mindsets do better in fresh air rather than festering under people's skin. I also like to get my blood boiling, and no one can get me angrier than Dr. Laura.

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I have been listening to her radio show for years, not because I feel strongly about her advice — some of it is good, some of it is bad, some of it is just mean — but because I have a queer fascination with how such a condescending, rude know-it-all could have such a large and devoted listenership. (Plus it passes the time in the car.)

Each day millions listen as Dr. Laura cuts off callers, screams at callers to hurry, tells callers she's not interested in their insipid stories, calls people horrible names, toots her own horn ceaselessly and laughs uproariously — at her own jokes. She calls women whores and sluts for doing all the things she did until she started approaching middle-age, things such as having affairs with sugar daddies, posing for really raunchy naked pictures and stealing a man from his wife and kids.

Dr. Laura's targets have included step-parents, dogs, Democrats, public schools, homosexuals, newspapers, and her favorite punching bag of all, working moms, which would be hurtful if it weren't funny. Who is more of a working mom, what with a radio show, (a now-defunct) television show, important books to write, personal appearances to do, people to sue, and, oh yeah, a teen-age son, than our beloved Dr. Laura?

Dr. Laura has carved out a niche in radio, and a big part of that niche is among those angry but dedicated moms in SUVs who are not going to move until that parking spot opens really close to Costco's entrance, no matter how many cars pile up behind them and no matter how long it takes the people in that spot to get into that car. Yes, in its own nutty way, the Dr. Laura show works on radio, because it appeals to all those moms and so many others who think this country is going to hell in a hand basket and need to vent.

Dr. Laura's television show, though, was a disaster from the get-go. Most shows started with Dr. Laura trying to do comedy, often "riffing" off items in the news. It was like Carrot Top trying to do serious social commentary. It just didn't work. It actually hurt to watch. I thank God that the comedy segment usually was on while I was eating breakfast and I had nothing sharper than a spoon in my hand.

Then the show would go to Dr. Laura asking people for their opinions about issues, which usually was followed by Dr. Laura telling them how wrong they were. Then Dr. Laura would have on guests who would tell their sad stories to Dr. Laura, who would then tell the people how misguided and immoral they were and how they would have been better off by following her advice, which can be found in one of her many advice books, available in your local bookstore. Then the program has the prophet-like Dr. Laura giving more of her sage, flawless advice on how people can be perfect like her.

The key to being a successful talk show host is likeability, and much of that likeability centers around whether the host actually seem to like his or her guests. Ricki Lake, Rosie O'Donnell. Maury Povich, Jenny Jones, Jay Leno and Oprah Winfrey all seem to like the people on their shows and in their crowds. The old kings of talk, Mike Douglas and Merv Griffin, seemed to love their guests and their audiences. Jerry Springer and David Letterman at least seem bemused by them.

Dr. Laura considered herself miles above the people on the program. While that might go over well with some on the radio, which has a much more segmented and removed audience, it comes across as a double slap on the face on television, because you have to actually look at Dr. Laura finding sad and injured people disgusting.

Dr. Laura often implores America to "go out and do the right thing." By rejecting her rotten television program, America did just that.

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