By Staff -- Broadcasting & Cable, 7/30/2006 8:00:00 PM
Praise the leadership at PBS.
Whether because of a new respect for the government’s indecency crackdown or just good housecleaning, the network has made the airwaves safer for children.
In a very public way, PBS Kids Sprout, a new toddler network, has exorcized the host of The Good Night Show for an audience of 2- to 5-year-olds after learning that she had appeared in spoof videos called “Technical Virgin” for a Website. When Melanie Martinez notified network executives about the Internet videos—made seven years ago—she was immediately canned.
In the two 30-second videos, now making their rounds on the Web, she parodies the inefficacy of PSAs that preach teenage abstinence from sex. In both, she is fully clothed and never says a single curse word. Regrettably for Martinez, in one spoof she says anal sex is a way to avoid pregnancy and in the other holds a vibrator.
In a statement, network President Sandy Wax declared, “PBS Kids Sprout has determined that the dialogue in this video is inappropriate for her role as a preschool-program host and may undermine her character’s credibility with our audience.” The Good Night Show has been temporarily replaced by cartoons while a search is conducted for a new host.
PBS President/CEO Paula Kerger told reporters last week, “What we were looking for is someone that is really representative of PBS. She is not an actress. She is really supposed to embody service itself.”
We’re relieved that the Web-surfing set of 1- to 5-year-olds won’t have to deal with the ugly truth of their nighttime host.
We applaud PBS, and urge Ms. Wax to go further. The ax should also fall on Gilbert Gottfried, voice of Digit on children’s animated series Cyberchase. Gottfried, a blue comic, is well-known for his rendition of The Aristocrats, a joke known for its profanity, bestiality, incest and fecal subject matter. The boom should also fall on Thomas the Tank Engine, a PBS favorite of the toddler set. The same voice that narrates the soothing Tank Engine stories turns the airwaves blue on HBO or Comedy Central: George Carlin.
On its face, the decision is certainly defensible, but it smacks of unfairness.
Perhaps PBS should pay attention to blogosphere critics railing at the hypocrisy of the PBS decision given the roster of stars that did—and do—perform more-adult humor apart from PBS.
And maybe it should listen to the hundreds of parents—and toddlers—who felt a connection to the nighttime host. Or the ones who wrote in heartfelt posts that perhaps the network overreacted. Perhaps firing Martinez, a 37-year-old mother of one, for a mistake, if that, made seven years ago, teaches children that there is no room for mistakes. That shouldn’t be in PBS’ lesson plan.
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