Wink-wink, nudge-nudge, ha-ha ... Say-what?
TV lips can make embarrassing slips amid the informal riffing of morning newscasts -- none with more double take-worthy frequency than the sunrise yentas of KVVU-TV, Channel 5.
Swan-diving into the soup last week was Dave Hall, subbing for absent Jason Feinberg. Displaying accessories provided by reporter Amy Carabba that she said reflected the personalities of Hall and co-anchor Monica Jackson, Hall held up a bright pink hat and pink shades and quipped: "I told her Jason's off today."
Cue Jackson's reaction: "Oooh, Dave! Oooh!"
Talk clumsily veered toward men exploring their feminine sides, Hall backtracking by awkwardly ad-libbing: "I think wearing makeup for a man, it's fine. You guys who are not wearing makeup, you're missing out -- on what, I have no idea." Spoken by an anchor whose joking repartee with a male ex-reporter last year wink-winked, nudge-nudged and ha-ha-ed over the latter's implied sexual orientation.
Assumptions, allusions and innuendo, anyone? Average viewers were bound to get it, even if what they "got" was unintended or incorrect.
"Dave and Jason joke about fashion and Dave dresses more conservatively than Jason, but I do acknowledge that people who aren't familiar with our show might misinterpret that kind of comment," says news director Adam P. Bradshaw, adding that he had a chat with Hall, whom Bradshaw declined to make available for comment. "He was surprised and concerned because he didn't want to offend anyone. It was me having a conversation with (Hall) to make sure not to take it too far."
Misinterpretation might have been averted had Hall explained his ribbing was over strictly sartorial matters, understanding that Feinberg, as a fashionable, well-groomed man, copes with the cliched rumors that attend that image in our culture. Or better yet? Just can the comment. Feinberg's personal life? Feinberg's business, period.
Pertaining to what's put on-air, however, those were a cautionary few minutes.
"I don't understand who would kid about that, it's inappropriate and can be offensive," says openly gay Chris Saldana of KLAS-TV, Channel 8. "It's also up to the person being (talked) about to stand up, off-air, in a professional way and say, 'If you're making insinuations, let me tell you where I stand so we can nip this in the bud.' "
Newscasters, even on loosey-goosier a.m. shows, have no business making veiled allusions to the sexual lives of fellow newscasters, regardless of orientation, good-natured or not. It lowers a level of dignity at which every newscast should operate at every time slot.
Last year, this column applauded the relaxed Fox-5 approach, appreciating the raucous, morning radio-ish vibe that, given viewers' hectic morning routines that distract them from the TV, lent Fox-5 an advantage as it made them fun not only to see, but to overhear.
That's radio-"ish" -- not radio-Xerox. Let the zoolike radio jesters specialize in the blunt banter pioneered by Howard Stern that enlivened but also coarsened that medium.
Extending the benefit of the doubt, Hall probably was just oblivious rather than purposely suggestive about Feinberg, needing to keep the potential impact of remarks that are off the cuff, on his mind.
Contact reporter Steve Bornfeld at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0256.