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Dear Matt-Al, Knower of Any and All Stuff Profound and Minute:

A couple of months ago I watched Dr. Laura on a cable news commentary program. She stated to her hosts that her TV show did not succeed or fail on its own merits but was canceled due to gay activists pressuring sponsors to drop her. Previously it had been reported that the show was dropped because of lack of viewers. I was once a big fan and must know the truth. Did she spin a fib?

-- Dr. Stupidus Maximus, San Diego

Have you not one bit of the skeptic in you, S.M.? Never had the urge to yell, "Oh, hell, everybody's wrong! Just shut up!"? Here's a perfect opportunity. Of course the anti-Laura campaign by GLAAD hurt the show. But me, I'm cynical enough to also believe that if lots of people had actually watched the show once it was on the air, GLAAD's objections wouldn't have mattered. Sponsors would have come running. It's difficult for a special-interest group to kill a TV show without considerable help from the show itself. The TV version of Dr. Laura apparently had suicidal tendencies. People tuned in, but they never came back.

Dr. Laura went on the tube with a lot of hoopla and excellent time slots for a daytime syndicated show. She was not disadvantaged. But in practically no time, her ratings tanked. The only other talk show she beat out in the Nielsens was Cybill Shepherd's "Mars/Venus" debacle. Even Queen Latifah kicked Laura's butt. One analysis of her ratings numbers showed that people tuned in for the first 15 minutes or so, but few stuck around to see the whole hour. Even a popular lead-in program didn't help. Viewers watched the lead-in, then turned off Laura. Granted, the loss of a major sponsor like Procter & Gamble doesn't help a show's image, when you're left being sponsored by the Ginsu knives, "100 Favorite Disco Hits," and car wax that will resist a garage fire. For whatever reason, the Dr. Laura show is fine for radio, but a bomb on television. She didn't spin a fib, but, as usual, she told you only one side of the story.

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