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HOWARD ROSENBERG

This Time, the Readers Do the Writing

March 21, 1994|HOWARD ROSENBERG

M ail call. The envelope, please. . . .

In regard to "People's Choice: Manson, Dahmer," I share your dismay that the networks are pandering to the prurient interests of a segment of the TV viewing audience. But I think you're being too hard on the public at large. Here's why:

The Manson show got 30% of the people tuning in, or about 35 million viewers (this according to Nielsen, whose dubious sampling method reminds me of the old joke about the drunk who has lost his wallet in a bar but is searching for it under a street lamp because the light is better there).

But even assuming the ratings are accurate (a big stretch), getting 30% of the viewers means that 70% were watching something else. That's about 82 million people. Add that to the other 133 million Americans who apparently weren't watching anything and you get about 215 million who never saw Charlie and his angels at all. That means only about 14% of the country's population did see the show. So what's all this hand- wringing about the public getting what they deserve for their depraved taste?

JIM RYAN

Van Nuys

I can't express adequately my feelings of dismay and repulsion as the air time with Manson went on and on . I thought that, perhaps, they'd allow him a few seconds worth and spend more time with the victims' families or putting the crimes into topical perspective. I was counting on the Mansons taking 20 minutes of the hour. Finally, I switched off in disgust. These people have nothing to say, and their presentation on TV can do no possible social good. So what was the point?

The point is exploiting the lowest and basest temptations of audiences for fun and profit, even at the risk of providing a negative inspiration in the figure of the notorious Manson to a whole new generation of disaffected youth.

I wonder if ABC News President Roone Arledge called Manson in prison and congratulated him: "Thanks, Charlie boy. You really pulled us out of that 10 p.m. slump we've been having since we lost 'thirtysomething.' We're prepping for a sequel."

JOANNE G. MURPHY

Los Angeles

*

A column you wrote touched upon my biggest problem with this news-as-high-tension-melodrama approach. It leaves a lot of people thinking that real life really is a nonstop roller coaster of shock, horror, outrage and violence. Polls have indicated that people who get their news from television tend to vastly overestimate the likelihood of themselves being the victim of a crime.

They haven't been mugged in years, if at all, their car has never been stolen, they have never been raped and no one has ever attempted to murder them. But, when television tells them that the life they seem to be living is somehow abnormal, they decide that they are simply not perceiving their surroundings correctly. They begin to see evil lurking everywhere.

When people assume that everybody around them is involved in some frightening melodrama and that they will be the victims, they do extraordinary things. The only time I ever had a gun fired at me was not in a robbery. It was when I was walking down a neighborhood street and some woman decided that by walking 200 yards behind her I must be "following" her. She whipped out a pistol and fired several shots at me before racing off down the street screaming for help! The world is full of people who, taking their cue from melodramatic newscasts, expect everyone everywhere to be the enemy.

MARVIN JONES

Panorama City

*

Louis Farrakhan's appearance on "The Arsenio Hall Show" further confirmed my belief that I don't need Howard Rosenberg to interpret or distort the view of a man who is quite capable of articulating his own positions. Upon closer examination, it is obvious that there is no problem of anti-Semitism involving Farrakhan, only a difference of political and theological viewpoint. We are maturing as a nation. God bless America! Wake up, Mr. Rosenberg!

ROBERT ROSS

Los Angeles

Whoopi Goldberg should not be confused about Louis Farrakhan's appearance on "The Arsenio Hall Show." After all, she not only had racist Ku Klux Klan leader Tom Metzger on her now-canceled show, but she sat with him and smiled while he insulted blacks and Jews.

PAMELA JEFFREY

Los Angeles

Yes, indeed, we all hail Sid Caesar and he deserves our praise. But so do the head writer, Mel Tolkin, and Lucille Kallen (who was one of two female writers during that era) deserve our praise. And let us not omit James Starbuck, the choreographer who contributed a body of work unmatched in TV.

ANITA NYE

Pacific Palisades

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