Tuesday, September 12, 2000

Dr. Laura's TV show inoffensive

Blunt advice might strike a nerve

        Laura Schlessinger's fans should be pleased — and her detractors not offended — by the Dr. Laura TV show premiere Monday.

        As promised, Ms. Schlessinger didn't make any references on TV to gays. But she also didn't shy away from her beliefs about parental responsibilities. She hasn't been declawed completely, just tempered.

        On her debut, about “Teens and Drugs: What To Do,” she made it clear that parents must keep their children on track.

        “When a parent snoops, or has their child drug-tested, he's not violating a child's rights. He's protecting a child from harm! That is what a parent is supposed to do, and a child will learn to appreciate it,” she said.

        The first Dr. Laura show was reminiscent of Phil Don ahue's old talk show, or even Sally Jessy Raphael,before TV talk shows degenerated into shouting matches and name calling. (Thank you, Jerry Springer.)And maybe that's what America is looking for today.

        In her TV premiere, Dr. Laura interviewed 14 guests about teen drug use — parents, police, teens and teachers.

        For the record, only one teen, Sharli Hayter, 17, disagreed with the host and defended her four-year marijuana habit. And none of Dr. Laura's clean-cut teen guests would have been confused with Marilyn Manson fans or Jerry Springer guests. No slackers here.

        It's always hard to predict success based on one episode. It's particularly difficult for TV talk shows, because only one (Queen Latifah) from the past two years hasn't been canceled. (Richard Simmons, Martin Short, Roseanne, Leeza Gibbons, Donny and Marie Osmond and fellow radio talk host Dr. Joy Browne).

        I wouldn't be surprised if Dr. Laura survives on TV. Her straightforward advice may strike a nerve with the audience that craves Judith Sheindlin's no-nonsense Judge Judy.

        Like Mr. Springer, Dr. Laura will end each program with a commentary. Unlike the former Cincinnati mayor, she won't be afraid to confront her guests and bluntly state her core values on morality and responsibility.

        If enough viewers think of her as the anti-Springer, she could last as long as Oprah Winfrey. Or at least longer than Dr. Joy Browne.


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