This is some of the dumbest television I have ever seen, and I have been watching television for 48 years.
A major TV network devotes almost ten minutes of national airtime to bringing America the story of a suburban Chicago father and daughter. The story is that the daughter was living with an older man, but has now collected her belongings and left him. The older man is Drew Peterson, the still-married former Bolingbrook police officer with a missing current wife and a former wife who has been declared a murder victim.
Two expensively-dressed, professional-looking women sit on the sofa and address questions to the daughter, then wait with serious faces as if expecting an elevator to arrive, open, and reveal the secret behind perfect omelettes.
But this elevator is really, really slow. When it finally arrives, what is revealed is exactly what everyone has known all along:
“It was more like a stunt.”
No kidding? Gee, who could ever have figured it was a stunt way back when Drew Peterson’s publicist first confirmed the engagement?
This whole “story” is just one big, cruel, misogynistic joke played by Drew Peterson, and the media continues to go along with it because it’s a proven ratings winner. Apparently they have no ethical problem with letting a rascally murder suspect turn a young woman of insufficient insight into a national laughingstock.
All they have to do to justify promoting this freak show is to pretend that there’s some sort of lesson or virtue to be found here. So, CBS legal analyst Lisa Bloom confirms that, legally, Drew Peterson cannot get married again because he is still legally married to his missing fourth wife, Stacy Peterson. Boom — we have all learned something, and we no longer have to feel ashamed for snickering at Chrissy and her father Ernie Raines. On the contrary, Ernest is said to be the rare example of a “success story,” a role model of sorts for other fathers to emulate.
Perhaps we should all strive to have the Bolingbrook police carry our daughters’ belongings in plastic laundry baskets out of a 55-year-old murder suspect’s home while the camera crew for a national morning show documents every “F— yourself.”
This same domestic dispute was the very top story Friday evening on the newscasts of WBBM-TV, Chicago’s CBS affiliate. Reporter Mike Puccinelli wore a jacket and tie and used emphatic hand gestures to convey the gravity of the events that had been captured in front of Drew Peterson’s home.
Immediately prior to the newscast, Ernie Raines and the scandal of his daughter’s betrothal were featured on the Dr. Phil show, with Dr. Phil suggesting that we would learn something by gawking at Mr. Raines.
The night before that, Drew Peterson and his engagement were detailed on ABC News’ Nightline, with correspondent Martin Bashir traveling to Bolingbrook and traipsing with his camera crew in the freezing cold around Peterson’s neighborhood to look at, for example, the exterior of the house in which third wife Kathleen Savio died. We also got to see photos of Drew Peterson with long hair, back when he was an undercover cop.
Bashir was diagnosed with a pituitary tumor nine months ago, but reportedly wants to continue living his life as normally as possible, so there he was, in the back seat while Drew Peterson drove, doing his trademark journalistic probing.
What we learned from Bashir’s reportage was that Drew Peterson enjoys the romance and excitement in the early stages of a relationship, but that this eventually fades after being married a while, causing him to look elsewhere for more romance and excitement.
I mean, electricity was actually used to bring this news to us.
The Drew Peterson saga is naturally fascinating because most of the world suspects that he has killed two of his wives, but no one can yet prove it. That’s a very compelling hook. Additionally, Peterson is an engaging jokester, and the Bolingbrook locals are amusing with their accents and their outrage and their provincial ways.
I understand all this. I tuned in this morning too, and chuckled when Ernie Raines not only referenced the Johnny Cash recording of “To Beat the Devil,” but also identified Kris Kristofferson as the song’s author. The guy is the sort of character you could not make up.
Ultimately, though, the reason we keep watching is akin to the way it’s hard to concentrate on anything else when you have something stuck in your teeth. A relatively small item bothers you and won’t let you be at peace — and that is an admirable reaction when a woman has vanished and her husband is trying to laugh it all away.
The TV people ought to be careful not to assist Drew Peterson — and his lawyer and his publicist — in that effort. One way or another, there is an explanation for what happened to Stacy Peterson. Stunts and circuses and professionally-managed publicity should not be permitted to fuzz that focus, and fatigue us all through media overexposure.
What the public really needs to learn from all this is simply what happened to Peterson’s fourth wife, and who killed his third wife.