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Archive for Saturday, September 23, 2000

Television’s ‘Dr. Laura’ halts production for week

September 23, 2000

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— Dr. Laura Schlessinger's new television show made it on the air despite advertiser boycotts and protests by gay rights groups. Now, viewer apathy may knock it off.

With the "Dr. Laura" syndicated talk show struggling in the ratings, production has been briefly stopped for some retooling, a show spokeswoman said Friday.

Paramount Television, which makes the show, is adding a new producer. A planned four-day break in the production schedule was moved up to this week, said Daniella Cracknell, a show spokeswoman. New shows will continue airing every weekday.

"The show is not going off," Cracknell said. "We're just preparing for (ratings) sweeps."

The 53-year-old Schlessinger, who first gained a wide following with her radio call-in advice show, has been roundly criticized by gay activists for her comments on homosexuality, which she has termed "deviant" and "a biological error."

Advocates have pressured several sponsors from advertising on the show. Procter & Gamble, one of the nation's largest advertisers, pulled ads from Schlessinger's radio program in May and dropped plans to advertise on the television show.

Paramount and its stations have been forced to sell advertising time at discounted rates.

The show debuted on Sept. 11. Critics pronounced it dull, perhaps because of an effort to avoid controversy. During its first week, it averaged roughly 3 million viewers, and ratings have dropped 11 percent in the second week, said Marc Berman, an analyst for Mediaweek.com.

"It's a major disappointment," Berman said.

By contrast, "Oprah" regularly draws about 11 million viewers and "The Sally Jesse Raphael Show" gets about 6 million people, he said. Schlessinger's ratings are only slightly better than Martin Short's show last year, which was canceled at the end of its first season.




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