Washington Post TV critic Hank Stuever found only triumph in Stern's late career. "He's richer than he ever dreamed of. And although he still likes to think of himself as a marginalized provocateur, the fact is that the Howard Stern of the 1980s and '90s has been fully validated. He poked and prodded America into frank conversations about gender, sex, bodily functions, politics, culture, art. He triumphed over his real and imagined oppressors." How go your frank conversations about bodily functions?
Oily Stern super fans made fools of themselves on television. On CNN, former "Mork and Mindy" sidekick Jay Thomas mocked the PTC and honored Stern as the sage of our age.
"He is the richest and smartest entertainer of our time. He knows exactly what he's doing. He certainly is not going to do anything like me here on national television. He's not going to do anything untoward," Thomas insisted. "And I think that NBC should send a $1 million dollar contribution to the Parents Council. They have added millions of people to watching 'America's Got Talent.'"
Wrong and wrong. In his first show, Stern had to talk about the size of his sex organ to a male dancer: "I was rooting for you, but all I saw was a guy with a small package. Don't worry; I'm in the same boat! But as a stripper, you can't have man boobs." Stern also mocked a bad singer who when he said his parents had died, Stern asked if they "died of embarrassment."
What matters to the cultural nihilists is one thing only (they say): Ratings. So guess what? After all the hype, it didn't work -- again. "America's Got Talent" scored a 3.6 average rating in the key 18-49 demographic, down significantly from last year's 4.3 for the season premiere.
The promoters of sleaze and sensationalism can't stand criticism, so their first line of defense is to insist that any criticism from "moralists" is only going to boost viewership. If moralists believed that, they would never speak up against anything. So far, the Stern gambit looks like NBC's "biggest loser." And that says something.