A few hundred years ago, when England was Merrie old England, the stocks came in handy when entertainment was short. A local miscreant would have his hands and feet secured and the locals would pelt him with rotten eggs and tomatoes.
Now comes the twenty first century version. One of our top TV presenters was caught after, shall we say, a compromising night in a hotel, with a woman who was not his partner. Worse, the woman turned out to be a lady of ‘easy virtue’, who immediately sold every grimy detail to Britains' best selling tabloid. A few years ago, anyone caught in that sort of story would be fired. But today, the personality apologises, disappears for a while and then gradually reinstates himself as born again and squeaky clean. But in this case, there's been no chance of that…. All because of the show that our fallen hero presents. It is a high-rating, no-holds-barred, news comment show that regularly and devastatingly mocks anyone who has strayed from the path of virtue. So, straight after the newspaper came out, the whole country knew that Mr. Angus Deayton was in for the public humiliation of his life from the guests on that week’s show. And he got it.
He was in the metaphorical stocks for thirty minutes and for thirty minutes he was hung out to dry in a way that would make the Friars Club Roasts look like a meeting of the Mother Teresa fan club. And all the hype meant that the show was a ratings triumph, trouncing the opposition. The network controller even showed up at the studio to lend her support. But let me just point out one other aspect of this story. On the night of passion, actually it was two nights of passion, the quizmaster snorted cocaine up a twenty pound note. An illegal act in this country and a pretty rough sort of example to the show’s audience.
It seems to me that the success of this show in audience terms doesn't just turn a man behaving badly into a laughing stock. It publicly condones the other part of the story. It's not the sex, it's the coke stupid.
Copyright 2002 CBS. All rights reserved.