Two bits of news provided an interesting contrast for me today.
Tonight marks the TV special "Michael J. Fox: Adventures of an Incurable Optimist" on ABC at 10 p.m. Based on Fox's best-selling book, the actor meets people with stories of inspiration.
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I've always been a big fan of Fox since his days on "Family Ties" to his current work on "Rescue Me" (which I hope he scores an Emmy nomination for). I've also followed Fox's work on behalf of people with Parkinson's Disease, which the actor was diagnosed with a decade ago.
It hits home for me because my grandfather died of the disease in 1993, so I've seen the toll it can take on a person first-hand. My grandfather, once an Olympic-caliber middle-distance runner in the 1930s (he once trained with Jesse Owens), had little control of his body in his waning years. Fox developed Parkinson's at an even younger age.
Fox's activism has raised the profile of the condition and helped raise funding for research. Further, his efforts have advanced the cause of stem-cell research in treating the disease.
What provided a stark contrast was the news yesterday that Oprah Winfrey is in talks with Jenny McCarthy on a project, possibly her own talk show.
McCarthy, an actress and former Playboy model, has been an advocate for trying to convince people not to vaccinate their children, spreading the erroneous fallacy that such vaccinations can lead to autism.
I'm not downplaying the problems of people with autism, because it is a serious problem in this country, but there is a massive amount of scientific research and data that proves vaccinations do not have ANY causal relationship to autism. What makes McCarthy's activism such a huge problem is that she might convince parents out there not to vaccinate their children, thus exposing them to a variety of preventable ailments.
That's where activism crosses the line for me. This is not a matter of opinion, a celebrity endorsing a politician or a cause like the genocides in Darfur. This is someone misleading the public that could lead to serious problems. I don't think McCarthy has ill intentions on her part, but she is terribly misinformed and is spreading that misinformation as if she is a medical authority. She isn't.
But even more bothersome is that Winfrey is potentially giving McCarthy a platform to spread this falsehood. It's another in a series of bad decisions I feel Winfrey has made.
While I don't begrudge her unlimited support of Barack Obama's candidacy to become President like many people I know -- after all, Oprah is not a journalist in any sense of the word, so she doesn't have to be impartial -- I think she did her viewers a disservice by not giving other candidates an opportunity to appear on her show so that viewers had an informed decision about all of the candidates, regardless of party. For example, the bulk of Oprah's viewers are women, yet she didn't do a program about Hillary Clinton, the first viable female candidate for President.
Oprah really needs to consider the potential damage that could be done to thousands of kids if their parents take the word of a celebrity over a medical professional.
"SCRUBS" FINALE: I enjoyed the finale of "Scrubs" Wednesday night, and I do hope it was the series finale, not the season finale. Creator Bill Lawrence gave the series a nice, funny and poignant farewell, ending it on a perfect note. Extending the series for another season would diminish it. Let it go out with style.
THURSDAY'S BEST BETS: Following a new "Ugly Betty" (ABC, 8 p.m.), "Grey's Anatomy" marks its 100th episode with the long-anticipated Mer-Der wedding at 9 p.m. I do have to wonder, will the minister be known as "McHoly?"
CW winds down the seasons of "Smallville" at 8 p.m. and the extremely awesome "Supernatural" at 9 p.m.
NBC runs new episodes of its Thursday comedies followed by a new "Southland" at 10 p.m.
CBS airs new episodes of "Survivor," "CSI" and "Harper's Island."
Finally, Fox has the weirdest cross-promotion ever as Booth sees images of "Family Guy's" Stewie (guest voice Seth MacFarlane) as Bones asks Booth to father her child on "Bones" at 8 p.m.