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August 23, 2000 11:18pm
'Dr. Laura' Tape Offers New Rx
Source: The Hollywood Reporter
by: Steve Brennan

(LOS ANGELES, CA) -- Issues ranging from affairs on the Internet to pornography in public libraries are dealt with in the first videotape seen by the television station community about the upcoming "Dr. Laura" talk show.

Reactions to the tape shown to station reps this week have been generally positive, said Bill Carroll, vp and director of programming at New York station rep firm Katz Television.

The show's controversial host, Laura Schlessinger, avoids the type of inflammatory anti-gay comments that have created major problems for her radio show among some advertisers.

"Nobody really knew up to now how this would work on TV," Carroll said. "This was the first look that anybody had at how the show will look when it comes on the air in the fall. She is an opinionated person, but the topics she deals with on the tape are not the issues that most of the controversy has been centered on in the radio program."

Schlessinger's anti-gay remarks sparked a nationwide protest movement to take the radio show off the air and pressure Paramount Domestic Television Distribution from debuting the television show in the fall.

The one-hour show will see Schlessinger interviewing guests in a round-table setting not unlike that utilized by Charlie Rose on his PBS show. The big difference is that Schlessinger and her guests are surrounded by an audience that is invited to participate in the debate.

Among questions asked and discussed by Schlessinger and her guests on the tape: "When is an affair really an affair?" During the segment, Schlessinger wants to know if, morally, an affair counts as an affair if it is carried out via the Internet.

Another segment covers the range of books and other materials available to young people in public libraries. The program sent a young investigator with a hidden camera into a library.

"It was inferred that there was unlimited access to what some might feel is inappropriate material for young people to have access to," Carroll said. "It really became a debate about censorship."

Another topic discussed on the tape is, "When is the father the father?" It asks if contributing sperm is the definition of fatherhood, or if only a man's relationship with mother and child makes him a father.

"We were pleasantly surprised with her presence and her ability as shown on the tape," Carroll said. "It was encouraging to see the potential that this show has.

"Ultimately, this is a program with a great lineup of stations, and the controversy surrounding the show has most likely piqued interest on the part of viewers to see exactly what it is she is going to do. The real question is, Can a program that deals with a single topic each day sustain an audience? And, in the end, it will ultimately be the viewer who makes that decision."

A Paramount spokeswoman said the tape was designed for stations as a courtesy "production update," which the company provides each year at this time for upcoming new shows.

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