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PBS, You Don’t Need to Protect Us From Fred Willard

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So as you may have heard, legendary comic actor Fred Willard was arrested in an LA porn theater (in related news: there are still porn theaters) for a “lewd act.” Let’s leave aside the fact that arresting people for lewd behavior in porno houses is akin to arresting people for drinking in bars. (Do habitues of prom porn theaters actually call the police to complain about lewd activities spoiling the ambience?) Let’s leave aside whether this is the best use of crimefighting resources of LA’s police department or any other. The real crime that resulted from all this was that PBS yesterday canned Willard as the host of Antiques Roadshow spinoff Market Warriors.

It was shaping up as such a good day for PBS yesterday! The network had just had its best Emmy nominations morning in years, collecting nods for Downton Abbey across the drama categories, as well as for Sherlock. Then the network decided it need to oust Willard after the news, as a pre-emptive action against—what, exactly?

It’s not news that one of the downsides of having a public media network that’s dependent on contributions from government and corporate sponsors is that it makes extremely timid decisions, especially around anything having to do with politics or, perhaps more so, sex. In 2006, it fired a children’s show host because of a sexually provocative video she’d made seven years before. I wrote at the time that the decision was ridiculous—and aimed more at protecting parents’ tender sensibilities than kids’—even if, given the subject matter of her show, unavoidable. The legacy of Pee-Wee Herman sadly remains with us.

But who exactly was going to be offended by Willard narrating a show for grown adults about trying to nab antique finds in flea markets? I think we can all safely assume that the show could ensure that no funny business was going on while Willard described the search for a vintage snuff box. And news flash: no matter who PBS gets to narrate the show—they have sex parts, and they do things with them, somewhere, somehow, things that we may prefer not to know about. It makes no damn difference to anything. And for a TV network premised on catering to the higher intelligence of its viewers to behave as if we are such idiots and children is silly and sad.

Besides, if anything, Willard’s infraction is in a way appropriate for the host of a show of this kind. In the age of the Internet, what are porn houses if not a disappearing piece of vintage Americana? You may call it inappropriate behavior, PBS. I call it research!

10 comments
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potus
potus

I don’t think it’s about  being offensive, it's about distraction.   The showrunners, who are paying for the show and Williard's salary,  don’t want the focus pulled away from their show and that focus placed instead on the show’s narrator.  Fair or not, it will be some time before folks will be able to listen to him or look at Willard without first remembering that he was found in a public place with his pants around his ankles yanking away on his little man.     Masturbation is like taking a dump, everyone does it, but not a lot of folks need to have the experience shared with them.  Willard’s had a very long career in Hollywood, and has probably made a lot of money over the years.  If someone in his family will take the time to introduce him to online amp; cable porn, he should be fine.  But Willard made himself a distraction in this case, so I can't feel to bad for him.

lucelucy
lucelucy

 Like Button:  "You may call it inappropriate behavior, PBS. I call it research!"

wngnknj
wngnknj

The writer misses the point.  They are not protecting "us", the audience, from Fred Willard - they're protecting themselves from Fred Willard.  

In light of the dozens of recent sex scandals of varying degrees (including Sandusky) who knows what else might be uncovered?  Wanking off in a prono theatre might have been just the tip of the iceberg.  If Joe Paterno had acted immediately - we would think about him very differently today.

I love Fred Willard too - but PBS gets public funding and they need to protect that.  

chokingplanet
chokingplanet

Willard has a twitter account, no problem with internet access, but that's not the point to the activity. The few remaining porn houses cater to adult who enjoy this specific activity. Consenting adults, who paid to participate in an activity they were aware of and pursued, are not a matter for public law anymore. But worst of all, PBS fired the man before his trial—that is inexcusable.

anon76returns
anon76returns

I'm sorry, but "pat the bunny" from your earlier Martinez piece?  That will never not be funny.

sqweasel
sqweasel

PBS, you've lost a supporter.

Steven Gordon
Steven Gordon

I posted on another forum that Fred is a wonderful actor. I insist that he still is. Unfortunately, because of this, Fred was unceremoniously fired from PBS.

And porn theaters still exist? In the age of the Internet?

How do I contribute to the cause to buy Fred a computer?

BecTea
BecTea

I agree. Everyone has sex parts that they do things with. Get over it.

The Hoobie
The Hoobie

It's Fred Willard, man! I'd almost be disappointed if he didn't do stuff like that.

anon76returns
anon76returns

Now we know where he gets that sleazy, used car-salesman vibe.  Apparently he's a method comic actor.