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UPDATED 05/02/1988 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 05/02/1988 at 01:00 AM EDT



Geraldo Rivera's latest extravaganza, Murder: Live from Death Row, was the single most disgusting and abhorrent event in television that I have ever seen. It was a TV snuff show. Rivera played a tape of a man being shot to death—not a reenactment but the real thing. He showed picture after picture of dead and bloody bodies. He showed a montage of victims' tears. He talked, via satellite, with convicted killers on death rows and asked them to describe their crimes in lurid detail; even the killers had too much discretion to comply. In a scene of the inane meeting the insane, Rivera interviewed Charles Manson, as if we could learn anything more from the overexposed rantings of this particular murderous lunatic. And he ended it all with a lesson in constitutional law as seen by drooling vigilante mobs. Used to be, Geraldo Rivera was just a joke, the Robin Leach of TV news. But now he's not so harmless. He calls himself a journalist—his show is co-produced by a company named the Investigative News Group—yet he does things even a tabloid reporter on the UFO beat wouldn't do, like showing that real-life death scene or devoting entire hours of his daily talk show to topics like three-way sex and voodoo. Thus he lowers the standards and the credibility of all TV journalism while pandering to the most base and brainless emotions of his audience. He has started a regrettable trend toward tabloid TV, now also seen on Morton Downey, America's Most Wanted and A Current Affair. If this trend continues, it won't be long before we see talk shows starring Oliver North and Bernhard Goetz. But then again, they can't be any worse than Geraldo.

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