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On television, talk is cheap


RECENTLY I came across something called "The Jenny Jones Show" on one of about 800 cable channels that I now have access to, which is about 795 channels more than anyone could ever need.

Re-creating the sequence of events, I remember clicking past an oven-cleaner commercial and "The Frugal Gourmet" and a Bugs Bunny cartoon, the classic where Elmer Fudd has his heart set on rabbit stew and earmarks Bugs as the prime ingredient.

I clicked the channel once more and suddenly there was this blond-haired woman (who turned out to be Jenny Jones) waving a microphone while a wild-eyed Christian fundamentalist editor shrieked at a huge lesbian, who was shrieking right back.

The point is, Jenny Jones has her own talk show. JENNY JONES! I had never heard of the woman before and yet here she was, flashing a perfect Chiclets smile and bustling around the studio audience while her guests snarled at each other and the audience whooped.

"Hmmm, Jenny Jones, Jenny Jones . . . ," I thought. "Doesn't ring a bell."

L "The Jenny Jones Show" is no fly-by-night operation, either.

The set seems major league, and Jenny Jones herself appears to have a nice wardrobe, leaning heavily toward sweaters and slacks which are not exactly from off the rack at K mart.

There was even a promotional announcement that said, "While in Chicago, guests on 'The Jenny Jones Show' stay at such-and-such hotel." It struck me as the kind of place where the maid leaves chocolate mints on your pillow when she turns the bed down at night.

(By the way, Jenny Jones' next show was going to be on dieting. We saw a clip of what appeared to be a 400-pound woman sobbing about the agony of living in a society where being thin is considered sexy. There were also some anguished comments from two other weight-loss veterans who apparently were also having trouble staying away from the Chips Ahoy! at night.

(I don't know . . . it was all very moving.)

What the program did is drive home the fact that everyone in America seems to have his or her own talk show these days, including Jenny Jones.

It even has me toying with the idea of submitting a proposal for a new talk show, although we wouldn't have any heavy topics like: Women Who Hate Their Mothers And Go Looking For Them With a Spear Gun. That's not the direction we want to take.

Basically, my show would focus on everyday folks who do everyday things and have everyday problems.

For instance, one of our first shows would be about socks. We'd have two or three moms on the show and maybe a washing machine repairman, and they'd talk about how come people are always losing their socks in the laundry.

Look, I'm not saying it would be riveting television.

I'm not saying you'd stumble across my show and immediately put down the remote control and murmur: "Well! Now this is more like it."

All I'm saying is, we'd be offering an alternative to the, um, racier topics that Sally Jessy Raphael and Geraldo and Donahue like to get into.

So when you'd had your fill of Nazi dwarfs and transvestite bikers and survivalists who exist solely on a diet of tree bark, you could tune into my show, where we might be talking about cleaning the bathtub grout.

One topic I definitely see us kicking around has to do with the school lunch menu. In looking at the menu my kids have affixed to our refrigerator, I notice that lunch next Tuesday will be (and I'm quoting directly here): "Bar B Q Rib/roll or pizza. Spinach. Applesauce. Milk."

Maybe you see what I'm getting at here.

I'd invite a school nutritionist and a cafeteria worker and maybe someone on the school board to be on our show.

Then, right after the intro, just as they were settling themselves in their seats, I'd give a theatrical wave of my mike and say: "SPINACH with Bar BQ rib or pizza? What the heck is wrong with you people?! No wonder these kids can't locate Canada on a map!"

You don't think that would get the audience going? Then I'd hammer my guests with more tough questions, like how come they can't make those tiny milk containers easier to open?

Not that I want to use all the good stuff on one show.

You don't want to burn yourself out.

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