Your Tax Dollars At Work: Last Night’s Quality Programming on PBS

Masterpiece Theater presents....

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?

13 thoughts on “Your Tax Dollars At Work: Last Night’s Quality Programming on PBS

    • I think we need to be careful saying something like “Anything is better than __________,” Jeff. Reality TV only appears to be worse than everything else on the tube, because we haven’t hit rock-bottom, if there is such a thing in the entertainment world. Remember that old adage about how no one ever went broke under-estimating the taste of the public. (Sorry if I sound cynical—I just had another birthday and am feeling crotchety again.)

  1. I don’t know, Jack. It doesn’t sound much worse than what the rest of the wonderful world of television routinely offers us. At least it wasn’t about a school full of of insane, oversexed and doped out kids… played by real kids. Nor was it about the life of Charlie Sheen- slightly fictionalized. In fact, in comparison to what passes for standard fare these days, it’s almost as harmless as Lawrence Welk! Of course, Lawrence never demanded a cut from our paycheck, did he?

  2. Well, I do remember the Four Lads, Jack. My mom was a huge fan of theirs, and it seemed like one or another of their records was playing every time I walked into the house. My mom having passed on, and I being in my 60’s now, hearing an old recording of theirs is still good for a nostalgic rush. An old recording of them in their prime, that is. And whoever’s playing it is not doing so with money extorted out of my pay check. Ok, I’m not going to go off on some anti-tax rant, but is it asking too much of those who take my money that they use it cautiously and responsibly? Well here’s PBS cheapening memories, so apparently the answer is yes, it is asking too much. I agree with you, it’s time and past time to pull the plug on PBS.

    • I was being a little dishonest for effect, Karl—I remembered the Four Lads, but couldn’t tell you how they differed from The Brothers Four, the Four Freshman, and some others. I was a Four Aces guy–that tenor knocking out the high notes on “Love is a Many Splendored Thing” still gives me chills.

      • the Four this, the Four that…on and on. Some months ago I saw that wonderful musical, “Jersey Boys”.

        In one scene Frankie Valli and the boys are trying to think of a name for the group. Someone suggests “The Four Seasons”.

        Their manager says, “Well, it worked for Vivaldi.”

        Valli says, “What, somebody stole our name? Where do I find this Vivaldi guy? I’m gonna have a talk with him…”

  3. True, that. I have more than a couple of Four Aces recordings on my MP3, for just that reason. A bit of trivia: The Four Lads have the distinction of being the only recording artists to audition over the phone (leastways, a book I was reading on oldies musical acts said so).

  4. I hate to belabor this, but I’m going to anyway: those who argue that because it are either lying, because they know this isn’t true, or , which means they are also lying by asserting something they have no knowledge of.

    This post wasn’t ethics. It was bad mad libs and fallacies.

    • Argh. I used angle brackets. Let’s try that again:

      I hate to belabor this, but I’m going to anyway: those who argue that [The Tea Party] [is not racist] because [they are fighting for something that needs to be done] are either lying, because they know this isn’t true, or never watched [The Tea Party], which means they are also lying by asserting something they have no knowledge of.

  5. Who cares about the “Four Lads?” The point is that
    WE ARE PAYING FOR IT, only because no commercial sponsor in his/her right mind would underwrite it.

    If PBS can’t come up with programming that can’t be funded privately, take away its government support. I have noticed that networks like National Geographic, the History Channel, and even the Military Channel garner big enough audiences to also garner sponsors.

    And every time I happen upon WETA they seem to be having their bi-monthly fund raising drive, asking for MORE money than they already get from the Feds.

    It’s a big sham.

    • Neil-o:

      Won’t calm down until liberals stop picking and choosing who and what they’ll give Federal funding to (“to whom they should give Federal funding?”). They fund NPR and WETA because those networks support their point of view. Period.

      By the way, name one for-profit radio network that would pay Diane Rehm to continue as a host when she can barely get a word out? I have nothing against her personally, feel badly about her physical impairment, and she used to be a good interviewer, but it is absolutely painful, ridiculous, and nigh onto impossible to try and listen to her show these days. But it’s NPR, and no one has to pay her but us.

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