In USA Today, Bruce Kluger raises the issue, "Why do mean-spirited TV shows lure Americans?" and then launches into an attack on Bill O'Reilly and Fox News Channel (proof to Kluger that "sometimes the bad guys do win").
Why oh why, he moans, don't more people watch Phil Donahue? Never mind the fact that a bunch already do, or that a quarter-century ago, Phil was seen as the leading indicator of the dumbification and emotionalizing of talk TV. The fault lies not in our stars, but in ourselves. Kluger rhapsodizes:
Donahue is the Obi-Wan Kenobi of conversation: genuine, affable, well mannered and well informed. But the magic ain't working this time. By year's end, his audience of 379,000 was about one-sixth of O'Reilly's 2.4 million on Fox.
Therein lies the problem: Donahue has not lost one bit of smarts since his heyday. American TV has.
We am sorry Bruce (and Phil).