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Tooth Decay

This piece is not suitable for residents of Utah. If you happen to be from Utah, please click away and go do something productive: Work in the garden, search for the turn-signal indicator on your mini-van (it's there, really), breed, anything. Just don't read on any further, OK? Thanks.

Now that they're gone, we can get down to the business of TV--specifically, the cancellation of Utah's absolute favorite daytime gabfest, Donny & Marie. [Blood-curdling scream]

Oh, crap! Uncharacteristically, one Utah resident has failed to blindly follow orders, learned of D&M's demise, and just committed suicide.

As you can see, Donny & Marie, hosted by toothy Mormon siblings Donny and Marie Osmond, is much loved in the Beehive State. When news of the syndicated talk show's axing by distributor Columbia TriStar finally leaks out, the ensuing carnage could rival Jonestown, Heaven's Gate, or even Woodstock '99.

"We are not moving toward a third season," Columbia TriStar TV Distribution president Barry Thurston announced two weeks ago. "We had to make an evaluation based on the overall ratings." Since "overall ratings" are inclusive of markets other than Utah -- like the all-important New York -- D&M was doomed, despite somehow improving ratings during its two seasons (Latest ranking: No. 102). "The marketplace is difficult and the show itself is expensive," Thurston continued. "We were not prepared to reduce the quality of the series." When asked during which season they had planned to introduce quality into the series, Thurston declined to comment.

To be fair, Donny & Marie isn't the worst daytime talk show in syndication -- not as long as Jenny Jones and Rosie O'Donnell can still haul their shameless asses out in front of a camera. Lacking Jenny Jones' soulless exploitive edge, and never quite rising to the dizzying heights of fawning phoniness of The Rosie O'Donnell Show, Donny and Marie were forced to do the unthinkable: be themselves. Since being an Osmond only plays in Utah, Branson and certain suburbs of Phoenix, it's amazing Donny & Marie has lasted this long.

The show's biggest problem? Donny. Having survived his debilitating "social anxiety disorder" years (as documented in the dullest VH1 Behind the Music ever), Donny now seems determined to make up for lost time by reinventing himself as a cocky, creepy extrovert. Since this makes the average viewer want to reinvent his face with a tire iron -- citizens of Utah excluded, as we've established -- the channel flips. Not to Ainsley Harriett, fergawdsakes, but it flips.

Then again, Donny may have a perfectly good excuse for being such a tightly-wound freak: During an infamous 1998 appearance on The Howard Stern Show, Donny stated proudly that Debbie, his wife of 20 years, had never, ever, performed oral sex on him. Keep in mind, this is a guy who admits to frequenting Internet chat rooms using the screen name "Captain Purple." Seriously. Contacted numerous times by Stern, Debbie refused to confirm or deny Donny's heady pronouncement. Marie, nearly achieving a facial expression, simply said the story was tough to swallow, and that the whole situation left a bad taste in her mouth. [Bulletin: Eight more Utah citizens have just killed themselves.]

Having mentally checked out of the show sometime during the first season, Marie can't share in the blame for the plug being pulled on Donny & Marie -- she's in such a medicated haze, even the guests barely seem to notice her. Marie's finest hour of the show's run happened when psycho-magicians Penn & Teller poured an entire plate of live maggots down her blouse, and she actually made a noise and blinked. Industry buzz had it that Marie was planning to base her new one-woman Branson show around the incident, until People for the Ethical Treatment of Maggots protested and shut her down.

While D&M's cancellation is bad news for its stars and producer Dick Clark (who reportedly has been feeding off the souls of Osmond offspring to maintain his youthful vigor), it's a downright tragedy for Salt Lake City Fox affiliate KSTU 13. Imagine being the local station that loses Utah TV royalty like the Osmonds -- when Donny & Marie reruns disappear from the tube this September, it ain't going to be pretty. Think Los Angeles' NBA Finals victory riot/party, only catered by the Olive Garden.

Perhaps it's just as well, though. After all, talk shows are old hat now -- people want courtroom TV shows, and plenty of 'em. Thus, joining Judge Judy, Judge Mills Lane, Judge Joe Brown, Judge Hatchett and the rest in the daytime fray next season will be Judge Martin Short, Judge Richard Simmons, Judge Magic Johnson, Judge Roseanne, Judge Howie Mandel and -- wait for it -- Judges Donny & Marie!

Citizens of Utah, you may now return to your homes.


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