Thursday, January 19, 2017

Dave And Dan

I just read The Platinum Age Of Television by David Bianculli, a TV critic you might be familiar with if you listen to NPR.  We're living in that platinum age, with all the great shows--especially drama--available in the last generation.  But the book looks at quality television from the start.

Bianculli picks the five best shows from numerous genres--variety, soap operas, Westerns, workplace sitcoms, family sitcoms, medical drama and so on--also noting other examples that came in-between.  Unfortunately, this allows for only cursory discussions of each show.  Much better are the chapters that profile various TV names, both stars and writers--including an intriguing meeting with Louis C. K., who complains that Bianculli was too rough on his HBO sitcom Lucky Louie.

But I'm not here to discuss the quality of the book.  I want to discuss Dan Quayle.

If you're a TV fan, you already know where Quayle fits in.  On the chapter about "Single Working Women Sitcoms," Bianculli brings up Quayle's attack on Murphy Brown when the title character decided to have a child and raise it on her own.  The show itself responded by making Quayle's comment part of the world of Murphy Brown.

So far, so good. It's an interesting moment in TV history.  Except, in Bainculli's book, we get this sentence--on page 377--about how Quayle might have responded to Murphy Brown's precursor, The Days And Nights Of Molly Dodd.  In that show, Molly had an unplanned pregnancy with her boyfriend.  The boyfriend died, but Molly decided to have the baby and raise it herself.  This was a year before the Quayle/Murphy Brown brouhaha.  After noting Quayle's displeasure with single mom Brown, he adds:

And Molly's late boyfriend was African-American, which might or might not have incensed Quayle even more.

What a horrible thing to say.  That Bianculli thinks he's being sly and cute and clever only makes it worse.  If Bianculli doesn't like Quayle's comment on Murphy Brown, or his politics in general, fine.  But to casually imply Quayle holds hateful views (without any evidence, as far as I can see) is despicable.  It tells you something about David Bianculli, not about Dan Quayle.  (It also may tell you something about Bianculli's editors.)

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