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'Live' TV Worth Watching

Nobody does town meetings like Ted Koppel.

I watched most of his Discovery special, Living with Cancer, last night. The show combined the live town meeting, featuring Lance Armstrong, Elizabeth Edwards and Leroy Sievers, with the story of Armstrong and extended interviews with Sievers as he received chemotherapy and other treatment.

Armstrong and Edwards are houshold names.Sievers is the former Nightline producer who left in 2004 after failing to come to contract terms. He and Koppel were a team for years, and their relationship and the access it provides is what makes the show so compelling.

It was a thoughtful and hopeful peace that rang true. Sievers, who is blogging about his experiences for NPR, is doing better than expected, which gave the piece its hopeful tone. Kopple pointed out that the 'live' in the live town meeting had taken on a whole new meeting since when he and Sievers had begun the dialog over a year before, neither were sure Sievers–who had had tumors in his brain, lungs and spine–would still be here. The tumors have been beaten bak and Sievers is happily still with us. Sievers is a funny man and keen observer, the kind of person you want to be around for a long, long time.

In the show, Sievers talks about going to Hawaii to die drinking margaritas on the beach. He is in Hawaii now, but not dying, or at least not yet.

I particularly liked his discussion of trying to leverage his terminal diagnosis for better tables in a restaurant. My wife had a deadly cancer which she has beaten–cross fingers and toes–but I have used it for years as a conversation stopper with telemarketers who tried to sell me siding and windows and mutual funds during the dinner hour.

"I'm sorry, my wife has cancer," I would say, to which there seems to be no conversational parry in the telemarketers guide to keeping them on the phone.

Definitely TV worth watching.

By John Eggerton