Earlier this week, veteran comic actor Fred Willard, known recently for his numerous and hilarious appearances in films like "A Mighty Wind," "Best in Show," and "Anchorman," was arrested at a Hollywood area adult movie theater. He was has been charged with lewd conduct after police found him with his genitalia exposed while in the theater. He was later released.
Apparently looking to side-step any connection to controversy, PBS announced yesterday that it was dropping Willard from his involvement with their show "Market Warriors," on which Fred was the narrator. While it's understandable that the same channel that provides kids' programming like "Sesame Street" may want to protect its family-friendly reputation, we think PBS harshly overreacted and here are three reasons they were wrong to replace Willard.
Guilty Until Proven Innocent - It would seem that PBS isn't even willing to see how the story plays out. There's a very good chance, for example, that the 78-year-old Willard will be allowed to make a plea agreement of some kind and this whole story will go away quickly. It's hard to imagine a scenario that involves a long, drawn-out court battle for instance. It's in the "Waiting for Guffman" star's best interest to sweep this story under the rug as quickly as possible.
Did Pee-Wee Teach Them Nothing? - In 1991, Paul Reubens, the comedian and actor who created the pop-culture icon Pee-Wee Herman was busted in a similar fashion at a theater in Florida. The ensuing scandal cost Reubens his Saturday morning kids' TV show and forced him out of the spotlight for quite some time. Soon though, Reubens was viewed as someone who was unfairly fired for a personal issue unrelated to his talents as an artist and comedian. The lesson learned there was that while what Reubens did was unsavory to some, most of his adoring public was able to quickly move on and embrace him. Perhaps PBS should have thought of that before firing Willard.
Kids Don't Watch "Market Warriors" - The bottom line is quite simple actually. "Sesame Street" and the show that Willard worked on do not share audiences. It's hard to imagine that most kids watching Elmo and Big Bird even know who Fred is, let alone what just happened to him. PBS had an opportunity to acknowledge the sad nature of the story but to inject some logic and reason by saying essentially that they don't agree with his conduct, but that it's no indicative of anything worthy of him losing his job over. Instead, they caved to public pressure that wasn't even there, and fired a veteran actor preemptively.
Do you think PBS was right to fire Willard? Leave us a comment and let us know!
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- Arts & Entertainment
- Fred Willard
- Paul Reubens