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Jewish World Review July 21, 2000 / 18 Tamuz, 5760

Greg Crosby

Greg Crosby
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Consumer Reports

Another Golden Moment In Broadcasting -- BRYANT GUMBEL has finally shown the world what a high class, charming gentleman he truly is. Gumbel was seen on camera last week, in front of millions of viewers, clearly mouthing the words, ďWhat a f---ing idiot!Ē in reference to a guest he had just interviewed on his morning show. The interview had concluded and Gumbel thought the camera and microphone were turned off him -- they were not.

Once upon a time, a television personality would have completely destroyed his career by uttering such a remark over the air, but times have changed. Will Gumbel be reprimanded by his network? Will sponsors jump ship? I donít think so. Will viewers protest? Not enough to make any difference, Iím afraid. The fact is, people who watch and enjoy Bryant Gumbel, will probably make excuses for him and even DEFEND his right to say what he said.

I can hear the Gumbel fans now: ďHey, I saw Bryant interview that dude, and you know what? He WAS a f---ing idiot! Right on, Bryant!Ē ďI think Bryant has every right to express his opinion -- after all, this is a free country.Ē ďI donít think itís his fault ... Bryant didnít know he was still on the air when he said that. If anything, itís the fault of the director of the show.Ē

Will Gumbel apologize to the guest for his foul-mouthed remark? Judging by everything Iíve ever read or heard about him, he probably wonít -- at least not without a gun to his head. It would take a lot of pressure from the network, sponsors and viewers to make that happen, and I wouldnít hold my breath. Our society has become desensitized to pompous, no class, garbage-mouthed jerks. Having been exposed to them on a daily basis in sports, movies and on television for years, America is now numb.

In another time, a bum like Gumbel would have been thrown off television for good. He would have been lucky to find work at some small Midwestern radio station doing farm reports. But this is not another time. This is America 2000. And television today is not your fatherís television.

Gone are the Art Linkletters and Ralph Edwards of yesterday --- replaced by the likes of Howard Stern and Jerry Springer. John Cameron Swayze and Edward R. Murrow have morphed into things called Geraldo Rivera and Stone Phillips. The spontaneous creativity of Steve Allen has been superseded by the ďhow low can you goĒ brand of humor of Conan OíBrien. The sweet femininity of Dinah Shore is gone and in its place we have the brassy toughness of Rosie OíDonnell. And so it goes.

Itís not that Iím necessarily nostalgic for the television shows of forty years ago. I realize there is a time and a place for everything and everyone. Life is constant change and television reflects that. I only wish that in TVís rush to embrace the new and different, they would take better care not to throw away the civil and decent aspects of what came before.

Yes, change is a necessary part of growth, but there are some things worth holding onto as we move ahead. Letís not lose common courtesy and respect for others. Letís try to hang on to good manners and good taste. Ethics, quality standards and principles -- do we really want to rid ourselves of these things in the name of change?

I wish I could feel optimistic about the future of television, but Iím afraid I canít.

The beast is sliding much too fast down the slippery slope to stop now. Happily, the Bryant Gumbel comment will soon be forgotten -- forever lost in the sea of profane image and noise that has become American television. But if you think it canít get any worse -- well, folks, just stay tuned.

JWR contributor Greg Crosby, former creative head for Walt Disney publications, has written thousands of comics, hundreds of children's books, dozens of essays, and a letter to his congressman. You may contact him by clicking here.


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© 2000, Greg Crosby