Geraldo appearance: sweep smell of excess

November 07, 1992|By Steve McKerrow | Steve McKerrow,Staff Writer

Gather up some old shoes if you intend to watch NBC's "Empty Nest" and "Nurses" tonight. You'll end up throwing them at the screen in despair over a sweeps month ratings ploy so trashy it can be defined in one word: Geraldo.

That's Geraldo, as in Rivera, the syndicated talk-show host. He makes guest appearances in both shows tonight (at 9 and 9:30, respectively, on Channel 2), in the latest "seamless" story line linking the two sitcoms set in Miami.

In "Empty Nest," we even hear a line that perfectly describes the gimmick.

Carol (Dinah Manoff) tells her father Harry (Richard Mulligan) they have a chance to go on "Geraldo" to discuss the topic of "Adult Children Who Live With Their Lovers Under Their Parents' Roof."

Surprised, neighbor Charley (David Leisure) says of Harry, "He's not a neo-Nazi wife-swapping cross-dresser."

But Carol protests that not all "Geraldo" shows are that outrageous -- "just during sweeps week."

Well, November is sweeps month and the running gag of both shows is to trash Geraldo's trashy reputation, while shamelessly promoting it at the same time.

And there he is, grinning, acting stiffly and, at the close of "Nurses," gleefully spoofing his own bad press, especially the live special in which he found nothing in Al Capone's vault.

Give the man credit. He knows the old advertising adage that there's no such thing as bad publicity.

The plot device that carries the guest through both shows stems from a much-publicized incident a few years ago, when a chair-throwing melee erupted on Geraldo's show and left him with a broken nose.

Here, Harry accidentally clips the TV host with a coffee cup, so Geraldo ends up in the hospital of "Nurses," where he causes even more excitement than when the Maytag repairman was treated for a kidney stone.

Actually, many of the satirical lines cut deeply, such as all the talk in "Empty Nest" about Geraldo's tell-all autobiography, in which he seems to have spent his life either fighting with someone or having sex with famous women.

"You know, I'm sorry I ever wrote that damn book," Geraldo says at one point.

But in seeking to boost their own ratings by highlighting this lamentably successful character, the shows actually combine to redouble the offenses of tabloid TV.

Of course, they also prove something else: Viewers watch it.

WATCH APPEAL! -- The Virginia-based Viewers for Quality Television has declared tonight as its second "Tune In To Quality" evening, appealing to viewers to watch the CBS series "Brooklyn Bridge" (at 8 o'clock, Channel 11) to boost its ratings.

" 'Brooklyn Bridge' is a beautiful, touching series that epitomizes what television viewers search for in a quality program, but it is languishing near the bottom of the ratings," said Dorothy Swanson, the founder and president of VQT.

Last spring, the 2,000-member national organization's first such "Tune In To Quality" effort focused on the NBC series "I'll Fly Away," a good show whose ratings had put it at risk of cancellation.

Ms. Swanson notes that the series subsequently gained a solid spot on NBC's fall schedule (Fridays, moved up to 8 p.m. this month) and was nominated for several Emmys.

"Brooklyn Bridge," named best comedy series in the Golden Globe Awards this year, is writer Gary David Goldberg's warm evocation of his own 1950s childhood in an immigrant family, and stars Marion Ross, Danny Gerard and Peter Friedman.

In tonight's episode, Alan (Gerard) joins a tough guy "doo-wop" singing group without his parents' knowledge.

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