Thursday, March 28, 2002
Combative cable news star Bill O'Reilly makes his second network foray with "The Corruption of the American Child: An O'Reilly Factor Special" (8 p.m., Fox). The ever-pugnacious O'Reilly paints a dark picture of a popular culture that willfully exposes children to pornography, violence, foul language and other acts of degrading and anti-social behavior.
After a brief series of shocking video clips, O'Reilly confronts rap promoter Russell Simmons, rock oddity Marilyn Manson, a member of the rap/metal band Insane Clown Posse, Hollywood big shot Jack Valenti, WWF executive Linda McMahon and "shock jocks" Opie and Anthony about their responsibilities to children and society.
Kids are in danger, O'Reilly opines, and "the evidence is incontrovertible." But does a collection of clips and sound-bites amount to evidence? O'Reilly revels in expounding on the self-evident. Yes, there is a lot of vulgar garbage out there. But do we need "The Factor" to tell us that?
For all of his concern, he offers no testimony or anecdotal evidence about the corruption of America's youth. Nor does he discuss ways that Americans and parents can combat smut. "Factor" fans may enjoy the sight of O'Reilly making rock stars squirm, but "Corruption" is ultimately an inconclusive exercise in outrage.
During a telephone interview last week, O'Reilly all but chastised me for expecting him to marshal expert evidence or to draw any conclusions. "I could have had 50,000 psychologists on. I don't do that. What I'm trying to do is bring information to the public that hits them in the stomach. The public then makes up their mind about how pernicious this is. Not me."
Call me an elitist, Bill, but I never thought that hitting folks in the stomach was the best way to convey ideas. A cynic might conclude that O'Reilly is engaging in the time-dishonored tabloid tradition of condemning sleaze as a means to exhibit it. This is a Fox show, after all.
O'Reilly told me that I was entitled to my opinion, but then offered, "I don't care what you think. Once I get caught up in what you think or what Fox thinks then I lose my reportorial/editorial edge. Criticism doesn't matter to me."
ï¿½ Here's one victory over vulgarity. As of last week, "My Guide to Becoming a Rock Star" had been yanked from the WB network's schedule.
Tonight's other highlights
ï¿½ Phoebe's sunny new boyfriend (Alec Baldwin) annoys everyone on "Friends" (7 p.m., NBC).
ï¿½ Forensic experts discuss solutions to three homicides on the special "Post Mortem" (7 p.m., Fox).
ï¿½ Grissom's team investigates a fatal bus accident on "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" (8 p.m., CBS).
ï¿½ Will's parents (Sydney Pollack and Blythe Danner) reunite on "Will & Grace" (8 p.m., NBC).
ï¿½ An old colleague accuses Gage of war crimes on "The Agency" (9 p.m., CBS).
ï¿½ Weaver's firefighter friend (Lisa Vidal) perishes in a blaze on "ER" (9 p.m., NBC).
ï¿½ Scheduled on "Primetime" (9 p.m., ABC): a former CIA agent shares disguise techniques with victims of disfigurement; monitoring teen drivers.
ï¿½ The sports series "On the Record with Bob Costas" (9:30 p.m., HBO) begins its second 12-week season.
ï¿½ Muhammad Ali portrays himself in the 1977 boxing biography "The Greatest" (9:20 p.m., AMC). "A potentially exciting film," writes critic Leonard Maltin, that "becomes an episodic mess."
ï¿½ A fifth eviction on "Survivor: Marquesas" (7 p.m., CBS, TV-PG) ï¿½ Drew Carey hosts back-to-back repeat episodes of "Whose Line is it Anyway?" (7 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., ABC) ï¿½ Wrestling on "WWF Smackdown" (7 p.m., UPN).
ï¿½ Faith and Patty become volunteers on "Leap of Faith" (7:30 p.m., NBC).
ï¿½ Regis Philbin hosts "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" (8 p.m., ABC) ï¿½ Leo's spectral pals threaten Piper on "Charmed" (8 p.m., WB) ï¿½ Finch receives a hands-on education from his tutor on "Just Shoot Me" (8:30 p.m., NBC).
ï¿½ All are new ï¿½ Robin Williams and Sevendust appear on "Late Show with David Letterman" (10:35 p.m., CBS) ï¿½ Jay Leno hosts Sally Field, Pete Jones and Brandy on "The Tonight Show" (10:35 p.m., NBC).
ï¿½ Bill Maher welcomes Mo'Nique, Dave Navarro, Randall Kennedy and Tempestt Bledsoe on "Politically Incorrect" (11:05 p.m., ABC).
ï¿½ Rachel Griffiths and Harry Shearer appear on "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" (11:35 p.m., NBC) ï¿½ Paul Reiser, Carolyn Murphy and Faith Evans are booked on "The Late, Late Show with Craig Kilborn" (11:37 p.m., CBS).