NEW YORK -- Is it just me, or is TV extra loony of late?
Just consider the case of David Letterman. To everyone's delight, he was back at his desk on ''Late Show'' Monday night after a month-long absence.
Except he was never gone.
Sure, in real life Dave went under the knife, then spent weeks convalescing from heart surgery.
But being well (or even alive) is no precondition for being on TV. Despite his emergency quintuple bypass Jan. 14, Letterman was never off the air. Some nights, an old ''Late Show'' was rerun. Other nights, past guests came on to reminisce about appearing with Dave, then clips of those appearances with Dave were shown.
Even with Dave missing, Dave was never not there.
At least, until now. Although he's back for real, to ease his return he will sometimes relinquish his duties to a substitute host (such as Bill Cosby, who filled in Tuesday night).
Go figure: Now that Dave's back, more often than not he'll be gone.
An affair of another heart also has its screwy overtones. Airing last week, ''Who Wants to Marry a Multimillionaire?'' convened 50 women who wanted to be wed in the worst way. And then one was, to a guy none of them had even glimpsed until real estate investor/romantic fool Rick Rockwell stepped from the shadows and popped the question. Talk about a pig in a poke!
The two-hour Fox special boasted ''television's most-watched marriage ceremony since Charles and Diana.'' And like the marriage of those royal lovers, the nuptials of Rockwell and nurse/comely blonde Darva Conger seem star-crossed. Fox was forced to cancel a rebroadcast of the event after learning that Rockwell had once been accused of beating a girlfriend.
''I am humbled and embarrassed by the fact that everyone went to all this trouble for me,'' Rockwell said in a happier moment, just before dropping to one knee. Which suggests that he was blinded by the light. ''Who Wants to Marry a Multimillionaire'' isn't about Rick Rockwell. It's about TV.
And for the eligible bachelor initially identified only as ''Mr. Multimillionaire,'' as well as his eventual bride and the Spurned 49, TV was justification and reward.
In short, this program bears out the First Law of Television: If you search hard enough, you can find someone to do anything you can think of ... providing you put them on TV while they do it.
The Second Law of Television: Whatever it is, other people will watch.
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