Sometimes the withdrawal method really does work. Sure, you’re not even supposed to risk it, but sometimes there is no other option. Such was the case when NBC withdrew from being the first network to interview Paris Hilton post-jail to be aired on the Today show.
The incident became a public embarrassment for the Peacock Network not only because of the supposed fee (a press release was issued to the tune of “NBC does not nor will never pay for interviews”) but because they suddenly became everything that’s wrong with our culture, our media, our population.
It wasn’t only NBC; Hilton’s mother Kathy was said to be in heated talks with all three networks for some sort of payment. NBC, according to the Washington Post quoting an anonymous source, offered the Hiltons double what ABC was offering. The money would go for licensing home movies and family photos. After that, the story broke in the press and the whole thing fell apart.
Now, NBC’s Lauer is under suspicion for another big get, the exclusive interview with Princes William and Harry. It seems that NBC has paid out $2.5 million for the rights to broadcast the “Concert for Diana.” Lauer has had to make a public declaration that there was “no quid pro quo.” He can say it until he’s blue in the face – we’ll all still be thinking that there could be no other reason for the princes to give a public interview on NBC. The timing is a bit fishy.
NBC repaired what would otherwise be one of the major disappointments of the year. First, because the public probably would have watched, making it one of the highest rated nights of the year. And second, because Hilton would have had nothing of substance to say. At best, she would talk about how she’s now reformed and a child of God and make false promises. At worst, we’re dealing with another sacrificial lamb on the altar of the beast. The beast is always hungry and must be fed.
The public’s hunger for watching someone fall has become insatiable. Where it used to be maybe one a year, it’s now two or three a week. Hilton is prime flesh because she has thus far eluded her inevitable fall. She’s snapped back every time and managed to remain in the public’s favor. Until now. Hilton’s time has come and the beast must be fed.
NBC was to be the facilitator, but someone high up on the food chain finally put his or her foot down. Hilton later settled on Larry King Live, an appropriate venue for scandal. For a while there it was looking like Hilton pulled off the ultimate publicity stunt. But now that she’s been so publicly rejected her shimmer has significantly diminished.
Perhaps this is the moment when celebrity obsession will finally start to dim. That NBC rejected the interview gives us hope. It is a tiny step in the right direction, but a step nonetheless. NBC made a major error this past year when they chose to air the “media manifesto” of the Virginia Tech mass murderer. Canceling Hilton shows that they do have a conscience. Or maybe they just didn’t want to bear the brunt of the house of cards that Hilton built.