Picks and Pans Review: The Phil Donahue Show
Syndicated (check local listings)
Donahue is, unfortunately, suffering from the dreaded David Susskind syndrome, otherwise known as the shortage of relevant ideas for shows. Susskind ran out of them sometime in the early '70s; Donahue started running out about a year ago. As evidence, he's already had his second show on men wearing skirts, as if that were a trend to reckon with. He's nearly desperate enough to devote a show to hearing-impaired transsexual Communists. He's also suffering from a related disease: Bill Buckleyitis, otherwise known as the inability to speak a simple sentence. Donahue is so conscious of saying the right thing ("women who do not work outside the home" instead of "non-working women" or the unspeakable "housewives") that he gets lost in search of a verb. It's too bad, for the guy can be good, even great, at keeping a show rolling and rollicking and substantive (witness the Democratic debate he refereed). And his show still presents one of the only two reliable barometers of the moods of America: If his audience and Johnny Carson's monologue turn against somebody, that somebody is done for. Phil's planning to move his show from Chicago to New York next year; whether his audience will remain as typically American is yet to be seen. One also fears that New York will make Phil himself even more uptight than he's already become. You want to tickle the guy, to muss up his hair. Relax, Phil, be yourself—that's plenty good enough.
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