I hate to belabor this, but I’m going to anyway: those who argue that PBS must receive taxpayer funding because it fills a void in quality programming that will not appear anywhere else are either lying, because they know this isn’t true, or never watch PBS, which means they are also lying by asserting something they have no knowledge of.
Last night, my local PBS station featured a two-hour program (it was a repeat of a 2004 PBS special) featuring commercial TV trash quiz show host Wink Martindale giving fake questions to a panel of Rip Taylor (see photo), the bread-ball and confetti hurling prop comedian from the Sixties and Seventies, Dr. Joyce Brothers, Dr. Phil’s forerunner who was a favorite guest of the late Merv Griffin, and Brett Somers, a Phyllis Diller-light comedienne best known for being Jack Klugman’s wife and as a regular panelist on the Seventies version of “The Match Game.”
The “correct” answers to Wink’s questions served as introductions to old, old, old pop acts from the 1950’s. While I watched, they introduced “The Four Lads”—remember them? Me neither— singing their immortal hit, stupid and square even when Ike was President, “Constantinople.” Definition of a musical act we don’t need to see: “The Four Lads” after they have turned 70, and lost the ability to sing.
This would have been bottom of the barrel TV on any commercial channel 40 years ago, but better, since Rip, Joyce, and Brett (who is dead now), as well as the “Lads”, were not in their dotage. How can otherwise intelligent and honest people continue to plead that the national budget should be squeezed one more milli-micron to broadcast junk like this? How can anyone watch such programming and argue straight-faced that PBS isn’t aimed at a narrow demographic? In fact, how can anyone watch such programming at all?