Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Nothing to Be Ashamed Of

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Nothing to Be Ashamed Of

Article excerpt

And you thought we had maxed out on shamelessness. That sometime during the early 1990s, someone on a tabloid TV show about a kinky, cross-dressing affair with a best friend's Rottweiler had crossed the last frontier. Finally, we had let it all hang out.

Well, me too. In fact, by the time the story of the sex worker and the spinmeister came along, there was more public entertainment than private embarrassment. None of the parties seemed to be especially scandalized by this scandal.

On "Hard Copy," which paid Sherry Rowlands somewhat more than her usual hourly wage, the hooker held the high ground. In Time magazine, Dick Morris and his wife Eileen McGann posed for a portrait suggesting that Sherry was barely a blip in their marital bliss. But just a few cable channels away from "Hard Copy," there was a new blow being struck for shamelessness. This time the once-forbidden topic for television wasn't sex. It was money. The former sin wasn't infidelity. It was debt. This summer's hip new quiz show on Lifetime is named after our latest national fad: "Debt." On the same night that Sherry did the Dick story, a cheery young woman named Melanie was telling the world why she was in the red for $7,223. Because, she chirped, "the world has too many nice shoes." In this quiz show, the debtors may be down at the heels, but they are relentlessly upbeat. The host is alternately described as "The Crown Prince of Credit" and "The Duke of Debt." The questions are cultural trivia for the Generation Insolvent. This is a contest in which "three debt-laden Americans just like you compete to have us pay off all their bills and go home with nothing." It is, in short, the first quiz show to promise nothing. Now, I have no doubt that "Debt" is television for our times. As the producer Andrew Golder says, the old quiz shows were losing their point. The prizes became passe. "Once it was a new thing to get a washer or dryer. Now people already have the prizes. They bought them on credit cards," says Golder. "What th ey need is help paying off the credit cards." It is worth noting that the 35-year-old Golder is the son of a banker. …

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