It's cheap, it's sleazy and we like TV that way TALK TALK TALK

June 18, 1994|By Kevin Cowherd | Kevin Cowherd,Sun Staff Writer

You know it's going to be a rough day when you turn on "Sally Jessy Raphael" at 9 a.m. and she's chatting up some floozy in a gypsy outfit and the subject is: "Male prison inmates looking for love."

The floozy's name is Judy, age 52. Judy's lover is 40. He's in the slammer in Canada for what Judy calls a "misunderstanding" -- the misunderstanding being that he killed three people. As a result, Judy's lover is currently serving two life terms.

This means that by the time the guy gets out of the joint, Judy will be in her mid-70s, at which point their remaining time together could center on whose turn it is to get the walker out of the closet.

Still, Judy says she's nuts about the big lug.

"What attracted you to this man?" Sally Jessy demands to know.

"I saw his picture in Weekly World News," Judy says, referring to the supermarket tabloid. "I looked into his face and it haunted me."

O-o-K. Quickly, you grab for the clicker. But it's too late to back out now. You're the one who volunteered to chronicle a full day (9 a.m through 6 p.m.) of TV talk shows, an endless parade of misfits, perverts, sociopaths, philanderers, narcissists, sex-change candidates and grotesquely fat people who parade before your eyes until you're left numb and slack-jawed.

So on this weekday morning, you steel yourself and watch all 11 daytime talk shows that appear on regular TV in the Baltimore area. ("Regis and Kathie Lee" was rejected because of its high-perkiness and low-sordidness contents. Although speaking of sordid, a recent show did feature stunt cyclist Hans Rey.)

When more than one show is on at the same time (for example, three shows air at 10 a.m.: "Maury Povich," "Jerry Springer" and "Vicki!"), channel surfing is allowed; otherwise, a show has to be viewed in its entirety, no matter how excruciating.

According to the latest Nielsen figures, "Oprah Winfrey" is by far the most popular daytime talk show in the Baltimore market with an 11 rating and 28 share, while "Rolonda" is the least popular, with a 3 rating and 12 share. (Ratings measure the percentage of TV households watching a program. Shares measure the percentage among homes where the TV is in use.)

But . . . ratings, schmatings. All you care about is the trash, the geek factor, the titillation.

You want to wallow in the dirt. And you do.

Some of the lowlights:

9:07 a.m. -- Well, that didn't take long. Sally Jessy asks Judy if she's ever slept with her inmate lover. Twice, says Judy. The prison he's in allows conjugal visits in specially-built condos within the walls.

"He's like other prisoners," Judy says, "not used to sharing space with anyone."

Not that this was a complete downer for Judy: "Hey, it's a new apartment and you eat prime rib, steak, whatever you want!"

Hmm. If this is how Canada treats convicted murderers, they probably send the armed robbers on two-week cruises to the Caribbean.

9:13 -- Things are cookin' on "Bertice Berry." Heather is 18. Ed, her boyfriend, is 31. Ed's also the father of Heather's 2-year-old. Pam is Heather's mom, who hates Ed and thinks he's a pig for fooling around with her kid.

Bertice: "Heather, how do you feel?"

Heather: "Basically, I'm really confused."

Amen. Shows like this, they ought to provide Cliffs Notes.

9:22 -- Sally Jessy's audience is becoming hostile. The feeling is that Judy must have had a refrigerator dropped on her head not to realize she's being taken advantage of by this low-life prison creep.

Sally Jessy: "You don't feel used?"

Judy: "No, it's not all sex. He's a very sensitive Cancer."

9:33 -- We've just entered tricky terrain. Bertice is demanding something totally unfamiliar to Heather: introspection.

Bertice: "Heather, do you want to get married to Ed?"

Heather: "I won't marry anyone, even God, unless it's forever."

Ed says nothing. God, apparently, cannot be reached for a comment.

Hug time

9:35 -- Uh-oh. Bertice asks Heather and her mom to stand. What, hug time already?

Bertice: "I'm really hurting for you. Pam, will you hug her? And promise her you'll be there for her every day?"

9:39 -- Sally Jessy is grilling another inmate groupie. Maureen is 47. She loves TJ, 19. She says TJ's a swell guy, even if he did carve someone up. Maureen's teen-age daughter is introduced,

and says she gets along with TJ "great!"

Maureen's daughter: "Every time I have a problem, I go to him."

Sally Jessy: "How can you go to him? He's in prison."

Maureen's daughter: "I talk to him on the phone."

9:49 -- Sally Jessy: "What goes on in the visiting rooms, when we return!"

9:53 -- Bertice (to Heather): "I was worried about you. Now I feel there's a sense of hope."

Heather smiles vacantly. You get the feeling the only thing on her mind is a Big Mac and fries.

10:01 -- Bummer. Heavy seriousness here. The topic on "Maury Povich" is molestation. Maury calls it "the chilling cycle." Speaking of chilling, Maury looks positively ashen, as if he just climbed off an autopsy table.

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