Tuesday, September 24, 1996
Feeling sick? Daytime TV can cure you

BY LAURA PULFER
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Everybody always thinks they suffer the most when it happens to them, but I can assure you that this misfortune has no regard for race, creed, sex, economic status or your choice of personal hygiene products.

I am speaking, of course, of being trapped with daytime television.

Through no fault of my own, I got the flu. Sneezing and wheezing, I described my symptoms to my doctor in the most florid terms. She told me to stop whining and drink lots of liquids. No drugs. No magic bullet. No leaving the house. My eyes were too swollen for my contact lenses, so I couldn't read.

I guess you know what that means.

Our family doesn't have cable. Or a dish. If God had meant us to have 54 channels, with continuous reruns of I Love Lucy, he would not have invented books. Or conversation. Most of the time, we are perfectly happy with our electronic access to news and entertainment.

That's because we use it only at night and on weekends when programmers and advertisers believe that people who buy cars and beer and expensive pet food products will be watching. Networks spend lots of money hiring Cybill Shepherd and Jerry Seinfeld and John Lithgow to entertain these preferred customers.

Disposable income R us

They love us nighttime people. We have two paychecks, and we're not afraid to use them. However, they have absolutely no respect for people who turn on the television between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. In fact, I think it's fair to say that they hate these people and are trying to drive them crazy.

If you don't believe me, then you just surround yourself with soggy tissues and a gallon jug of orange juice and a TV remote control, and you'll see what I mean.

Joan Lunden and Bryant Gumbel and Brian Patrick and Cammy Dierking go on their merry way at 9 o'clock on the button, leaving us in the hands of Regis and Kathie Lee. Kathie Lee has two children, who will be in therapy for the rest of their lives after they find out what their mother has been telling the nation about their potty training.

Or maybe if they really come unglued, they'll wind up on Jerry Springer. If you spend any time with Jerry and his guests, I can guarantee that you'll feel a little frisson of disgust that he got his start here. Rolonda, Geraldo, Maury, Sally and Jenny are terrible, but Jerry is the worst. Anyone in America who is doing something vile and is willing to talk about it at the top of his lungs can star on Jerry's show.

No wonder people are so crazy about Rosie O'Donnell. I watched for three days in a row, and she did not give air time to a single freak. Nor did Oprah.

Of course, another choice is the dreaded TBA, which usually means that it's an infomercial, which is a word invented to avoid coming right out and admitting it's a great big sales pitch, uninterrupted by entertainment of any kind. Even the kind Jerry Springer provides.

The one I saw featured a completely baffling demonstration during which a man purposely burned cheese on a non-stick pan, then cleaned it off with a feather duster to wild applause from the audience. I was grateful to return to regular ads from lawyers begging for personal injury claims.

Kids' shows included Lamb Chop and Charlie Horse fighting over a chair, the insufferable Barney, Mr. Rogers and something called Bananas in Pajamas.

If mornings are dramas recounted by people who look as though Jerry or Geraldo should have run them through a car wash before they showed up on the set, afternoon soaps are beautiful people who spend all their time in bed either in a coma or kissing.

Believe me, with all the kissing these people do, they should have lips the size of Volkswagens. And that's basically it until the local news teams rescue us at 5.

I couldn't wait to get back to work. I'm cured. I think it was the orange juice and the prospect of spending another day with women who are sleeping with their sisters' husbands, who are cross-dressing lingerie models. Or watching the bed-bound soap stars. No harm done, except that I worry a little about adults who are stuck at home with this dreck as their reality.

And I worry a lot about the children.

Laura Pulfer's column appears in The Enquirer Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Call 768-8393 or fax at 768-8340. She can be heard Monday mornings on WVXU radio (91.7 FM), and as a regular commentator on National Public Radio's Morning Edition.