Dr. Laura’s TV debut is a ratings disappointment
Well, at least she hasn’t verbally bashed any gay people — yet. Dr. Laura Schlessinger’s controversial daytime TV talk show debuted in syndication this week, and it looks unlikely that she’ll match her radio success. Her first show mustered a mere 2.0 rating, down 23 percent from its lead-ins and off 20 percent from the programs that aired in the same time periods last year. Maybe that’s because Dr. Laura has a face that was made for radio. Or perhaps it’s her toxic personality that’s turning people off. Mixing sanctimony with sarcasm, she’s like an Orthodox Church Lady.
The first episode of ”Dr. Laura” dealt with how to tell if your kids use drugs and advocated such fascist parenting techniques as subjecting your children to random urine tests. When one father said that if he found out his daughter were on drugs, he’d ”go upside her head,” Dr. Laura laughed appreciatively (Isn’t child abuse a stitch?). Meanwhile, the daughter looked mortified — but not as mortified as a teenage boy Dr. Laura hugged for getting off drugs. After another high school girl made a cogent pro-marijuana speech, Dr. Laura immediately asked if her parents were divorced, as if that would explain her allegedly misguided morality.
The show didn’t improve on day 2, when the topic was ”When Is an Affair Really an Affair?” (”Today I am going to nag you about cheating,” she promised with chilling accuracy.) Dr. Laura plugged privacy invading technologies — including an electronic chastity belt — dissed Bill and Hillary Clinton, and praised various Republicans. She ended with a baffling observation about how the three letter Hebrew words for ”husband” and ”wife” share the same two letters as a word that means ”God,” while the leftover two letters spell ”fire.” (What’s the Hebrew word for ”crackpot”?)
The third ”Dr. Laura” doesn’t sound promising either. ”Raising children while working full time — think you can do both without your kids paying the price?” the promo blared. ”How can you be a one income family and a full time mom? Find out on the next ‘Dr. Laura!”’ I’m not sure who should be more insulted by this insinuating teaser — working mothers or stay at home dads
The good news is the boycott campaign organized by gay rights groups outraged by Dr. Laura’s vile rhetoric seems to be working. In New York City, the show was packed with low rent ads for Tel Com Plus (promising phone service for people who’ve been disconnected), the Professional Career Development Institute (offering high school correspondence courses), the Wound Care Center, Diet-Zx pills, Colace laxatives, and Anne Murray and Kenny Rogers CDs. So now we know the target audience for ”Dr. Laura”: uneducated, maimed, overweight, constipated deadbeats with bad taste in music. Schlessinger ends each installment with this condescending catchphrase: ”Now go do the right thing.” I am doing the right thing: I’m flipping off ”Dr. Laura.”