Some things never change. KABC-TV Channel 7 still has the grubbiest mitts in town.
In the old, old days, Channel 7 merely used its news as a commercial for ABC entertainment programs. That sort of self-serving behavior is standard grime at many stations.
But leave it to Channel 7 to be creatively repulsive. So much so, in fact, that it has reversed the procedure by using ABC movies and other prime-time programs to advertise its 11 p.m. alleged newscast during the critical May ratings sweeps period.
Here’s how it’s worked:
In a news break during “The Right to Kill,” a movie about a youth who fatally shot his physically abusive father, Channel 7 headlined a patricide report awaiting on its 11 p.m. program, a story created specifically to play off the movie.
The report turned out to be nonsense, going something like this: Patricide is getting to be a terrible problem, although there are no reliable statistics to prove it. But there are also no statistics to prove that patricide is not getting to be a terrible problem, hence it must be getting to be a terrible problem, else Channel 7 wouldn’t be bothering with this asinine story. Right?
On Wednesday night, it was time for some lighter absurdity, a Channel 7 news promo for an “exclusive"--did anyone else want it?--"update” on Sonny Bono, following a Barbara Walters special earlier in the evening in which she interviewed Bono’s ex-wife, Cher. Los Angeles waited breathlessly to learn the latest of Sonny.
The interview was conducted in Palm Springs by Harold Greene (known as “Harold of Hollywood” in a previous TV news life), who said it was a “kinda follow-up to the Barbara Walters show” and disclosed among other juicies that Bono wanted to attend cooking school in Italy.
“Thank you, Harold,” said anchorman Paul Moyer. “Interesting.”
If you were stranded on Pluto this wouldn’t be interesting.
When it came to slapstick burlesque, though, Channel 7 had broken the bank two evenings earlier in tailoring a 5 1/2-minute news package at 11 p.m. to “The Rape of Richard Beck,” a grim tome about the sexual assault of a super-macho policeman played by Richard Crenna.
“When we come back tonight,” Moyer said, “we’ll go behind the scenes of the movie, ‘The Rape of Richard Beck’ and we’ll hear why the plot hits home for actor Richard Crenna.”
After the break, co-anchor Terry Murphy announced that the movie “makes men fully aware of the trauma of women who have been sexually assaulted.”
Of course, Channel 7 would not have bothered with male rape if it were keyed to a movie on another network. It’s common knowledge in the media that movies about male rape are newsworthy only if they appear on ABC.
But, all right, the subject was worthy. Give Channel 7 a break. Men should empathize with female rape victims.
But what followed, after a scene from the movie and Crenna’s disclosure that his eldest daughter had been attacked by a would-be rapist several years ago, soared far beyond the bounds of news.
What followed were 3 1/2 minutes of babbling about rape by Dr. William Rader, Channel 7’s Capt. Queeg of psychoblabber, who once gave a TV news lecture on male sexuality using graphic charts and drawings of male genitals.
“First of all,” Rader told a seemingly rapt Moyer and Murphy, “about 20% of rapes are male rapes, but you never hear about it, because they’re not gonna report it.”
Then how does he know they make up 20%? Never mind. Rader was really starting to roll.
“When we’re children as males, we’re taught to win, right?” asked Rader, really revving up. “YOU GOTTA BE NO. 1!!!,” he shouted. “YOU GOTTA BEAT THE OTHER GUY!!! What could be the ultimate defeat? Obviously, to be raped.”
You had the impression he had composed this on the back of a napkin during dinner.
“Adolescents who are raped, male adolescents, a number of them are committing suicide,” Rader continued. How many? Later, later . He was really cooking.
“We have this concept of death rather than dishonor, so that we’re going to, if they survived like you saw with Crenna, they, they laughed at him: ‘Well, why didn’t you do something? Why didn’t you die?’ ”
“Exactly,” Moyer said.
Rader appeared ready to bring out some ball bearings and roll them in his hand. He was really heated up. Here was the heart of his sermon.
“I think it’s time that we understand that the penis is a weapon; it is not just a sexual thing.” Uh oh.
“It can be a weapon used to humiliate, to degrade, to control. Even if you have a normal relationship between a husband and a wife and when they have an argument, he says"--suddenly Rader was addressing the camera as if it were a sex partner--" 'OK, honey, c’mon, why don’t we make love?’ ” He then proceeded to describe the lovemaking as an act of aggression on the part of the male.
Rader said that “date rape is on the rise, and a lotta males don’t understand and y’know, they’re having a date, ‘So she went out, well, oh, so I did this.’ It totally changes their lives.”
Rader briefly looked upward, as if consulting higher authority. Queeg had dissolved into “Network’s” Howard Beale.
He babbled on for a minute or so longer and compared the helpless feeling of a rape victim to his own feeling of helplessness during an earthquake.
Moyer eyed Rader intently. Murphy sat with her head cocked quizzically. For an instant you weren’t sure whether they wanted to applaud Rader or throw a net over him.
Rader galloped down the home stretch, declaring that “adolescent males are actually committing suicide rather than telling anybody.” But if they’re committing suicide instead of revealing that they were raped, then how did Rader know why they’re committing suicide?
The answer was obvious. You know these things intuitively when you work for Channel 7. “Dr. Rader,” said Moyer, “painfully, we’re out of time.”
Until the next ABC movie.