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My Television Pals

I jaywalked several times last week, but that's about it. Like the former president, I've had lust in my heart lots of times. That happens. I swear too much, I'm pretty sure. But, though I have lived an imperfect life, done crude things, embarrassed myself and others, I am not nearly loathsome enough to be a true celebrity.

Instead, I leave that to the professionals. I find myself spending most of my media time tending to the day-to-day travails of Kobe Bryant, the alleged rapist; Michael Jackson, the alleged child molester; and Rush Limbaugh, who is a pill-popper, money-launderer, race-baiter or, perhaps, all three.

Then there's poor Britney. I can't remember why she's pathetic—I mean, besides the voice—but I know she is someone who is on trial, too, somehow. She always seems to be indicting herself. "Oops, I Did It Again" isn't just the name of her biggest hit song; it's the theme of her life.

So that brings me to Paris Hilton. I don't know what it is like in the rest of America, but in New York City, every day brings a new Paris Hilton story. Now in her early 20s, the waifish, sexy Hilton of the same Hilton family that owns the hotels, has been a regular in the gossip pages of New York papers for years, usually for doing something unfathomably scandalous. Lately, as you probably know even if you don't live in New York, a friend of Paris's old boyfriend discovered an old sex tape of Paris and her ex-beau that is, from what I hear, extremely uninhibited. You can probably still find snippets of it on the Internet, but, when the friend tried to sell it to a porn site, lawyers got involved, and, well, in short, I think the fun is just about over.

The authoritative (at least on this subject) New York Post
says Paris has been shocked and chastened by this chain of events. Now, she thinks, whenever any man meets her, he'll only be thinking of that tape. Of course, she's right.

But I've now heard an alternative theory: It's a publicity stunt for Fox (whose corporate parent, by golly, owns the New York Post), which on Tuesday, Dec. 2 premieres The Simple Life,
a reality show starring Paris and her sexy gal pal Nicole Richie (daughter of Lionel).

These two rich kids are moved to a farm in Altus, Ark., where they get to live with a family of hicks. Paris and Nicole feed pigs, go to Wal-Mart, and walk though muddy fields not wearing heels.

I've seen it. It's from The Anna Nicole Smith Show
school of television, where one episode goes a long way. Even if you tune in wanting to hate these two women of privilege who are so vapid, you cannot. Because you will fall asleep first. Then you have to wake up, start the tape again, and maybe then, finally, you'll see enough that you don't hate the women as much as you hate the idea of the show, which seems to have the aim of portraying the very rich and the very ordinary in very demeaning but equal ways. Both are worthy of our contempt.

' 'At long last, sir, have you no sense of decency? Have you no shame?'' lawyer Joseph Welch asked Commie hunter Sen. Joe McCarthy during those 1954 televised hearings. Those questions were the beginning of the end for McCarthy because Welch knew that millions were watching, were beginning to ask the same thing about McCarthy's bullying and blackmailing tactics, but hadn't the nerve to say it out loud.

To a large extent, those questions Welch asked would, in almost any context today, elicit a blank stare. There are still people we call "decent human beings" although not many of them are in the new wave of celebrities that dominate my life. There's a lot of media now, and producers need tragedies—or tragic figures or regular figures who will succumb to low behavior—to fill up the time. There's no lack of those people around, but it fills my television with characters I really don't care for. I think that has something to do with why viewers are turning away from television. You're supposed to like the people you see there.