Since I've been very neglectful with the posting this week, just thought I'd take a few minutes to weigh in on two of the major TV stories circulating this week, both involving men who've made, um, questionable choices.
The first of these charming gentlemen is reality TV star, tabloid fixture and father of the year Jon Gosselin. Gosselin, as you surely know, was, until recently, the "Jon" in the TLC reality series "Jon & Kate Plus 8." Following his much-publicized divorce from Kate, the show was retooled and, this week, TLC announced it was retitling the series "Kate Plus 8." Shortly after, Jon suddenly decided that it was wrong for his eight children -- 5-year-old sextuplets and 8-year-old twins -- to be televised, and the show has been shut down indefinitely.
So Jon, let me get this straight -- for years, exploiting your children was just fine, but, the minute you're cut out of the fame and money loop it's wrong? Jon claims his decision was the result of an "epiphany." That epiphany being: "Oh my God -- I'm no longer famous! Even worse, my payday is gone! Must...do...something...to get...attention...and...screw over...ex-wife!"
While Jon was practicing his brand of douchebaggery, another, more famous and arguably more respected, TV personality was taking his own plunge into jerkhood. On Thursday night, "Late Night" host David Letterman stunned and confused the audience of his CBS talk show when he followed his usual monologue with a lengthy and bizarre description of a fellow CBS employee's attempt to blackmail him. By now you know all the details: the man, Robert Halderman (a producer for "48 Hours), allegedly threatened to expose that Letterman had sex with female employees, unless Letterman payed Halderman $2 million. Halderman has since been arrested and plead not guilty to the charges facing him. Letterman, meanwhile, used his TV show as a platform to confess to the affairs...sort of. If you can call that a confession.
Letterman began, out of nowhere, to talk about finding the blackmail package in his car, slowly leading up to his admission about the sex allegations and his admission that he had slept with women who worked on his show. But Letterman peppered his story with jokes (quipping that, as part of a sting against Haldeman, Letterman paid him the $2 million using one of those giant checks they give golf tournament winners) and his usual folksy mannerisms.
It wasn't the somber confession we've come to expect from public figures who admit to wrongdoing. In fact, the studio audience kept responding with laughter and applause, obviously thinking this was some sort of elaborate comedy bit. You can almost hear the confused fans muttering "Where is he going with this? What's the punchline?"
It was all so strange. Here was Letterman, admitting to something that was, at the very least, unethical and unwise, and treating the whole thing with an alarming degree of levity. Was it fascinating TV? Yes. Did it make me a little nauseous? That's an understatement.
Between this and the Jon debacle I can't help but ask: What is WRONG with our world? Have people no shame? At least Jon's toolish-ness might have a positive effect -- yanking "Plus 8" from the air and inadvertently giving his children some shot at a quasi-normal life. But he's still a jerk. And Letterman, while a talented entertainer, is a jerk as well. He can say that he wants to "protect" the people in his life from scandal following his ordeal, but then, why make jokes? Probably because that's what he does best. Probably because he saw humor as his only way to emerge from this whole thing with something approaching dignity. Has he maintained dignity? I don't think so. What will happen to him? I don't know.
But once again I must ask: What is WRONG with our world?