More than 63 years ago, a group of male CBS executives experienced a mild panic. The network was the home of a television dynasty. “I Love Lucy” was not merely television’s number one show. Its dominance was such that NBC and ABC may as well have gone dark from 9 to 9:30 on Monday nights.
Lucille Ball informed the CBS brass that she and Desi Arnaz were about to become the proud parents of a second child. Two television histories, “Desilu” and “CBS: Reflections in a Bloodshot Eye,” detail the dilemma the network honchos saw on the horizon. Their consensus: “I Love Lucy” would have to go off the air, at a loss of millions to the network and sponsor Phillip Morris, until after Lucy gave birth.
Arnaz stood firm. He intended to incorporate the pregnancy into the storyline. The show would go on.
The suits in New York were aghast. No woman had ever been pregnant in scripts for a weekly series during television’s infancy. What if the nation was mortally offended? Who could guarantee if the megamillions watching Lucy and Ricky every week would return if the series went on hiatus?
CBS nervously agreed for the Arnazes to proceed. Lucy and Desi even engaged the services of Protestant, Catholic and Jewish advisers to scan the scripts for any dialogue that may potentially be offensive. Their only suggestion, a concession to the era, was that the word “expectant” should be used in lieu of “pregnant.” Sponsor Phillip Morris agreed that Lucy should not be shown smoking cigarettes during the shows in which she was expecting.
Move ahead to January 20, 1953. Little Ricky was born on national television. Earlier the same day, Lucille Ball gave birth to Desi Arnaz IV. The headlines for the actual and fictional arrivals were larger in most metropolitan newspapers than those for the inauguration of President Eisenhower.
That’s your classic TV history lesson. So what does that have to do with television meteorologists?
I was unfamiliar with Cindy Morgan or Marcy Novak until the last month. Both women are meteorologists in small to medium-sized television markets. Cindy forecasts for KAAL in Austin, Mn. Marcy delivers predictions for KOKH in Oklahoma City.
Oh yes, both women happen to be pregnant.
As most professional women do, barring a doctor’s advice to do otherwise, they are continuing to work. The difference from most other expectant working mothers is that Cindy and Marcy’s job performance is seen by thousands of people each day or night.
This is nearly 2016. Almost two-thirds of a century has passed since the tension over the arrival of network television’s first baby that only attracted 85 percent of the viewing audience. Supposedly, we have moved to a point of acceptance of birth as one of the most natural and joyous experiences. Well, not all of us.
In the last six weeks, both Cindy and Marcy have been the target of the sorehead denizens of Facebook and Twitter. Why? They have committed the unpardonable sin of “showing” while they bring competent weather information to their communities.
TV Spy referred to Cindy’s flamethrowers as “baby bump shamers.”
Wednesday, TV Spy reported on a Twitter troll with the handle @nvrqt who tweeted: “How much longer till the grotesquely pregnant weather lady goes on leave. She covers 1/2 the screen.”
Go to her Twitter page and you find one who uses a cockatiel for a profile picture and describes herself as a “science believer, vegetarian, inventor” and “punk rock chick.”
Her most recent tweets are a series of rants, primarily toward the Oklahoma City Fox affiliate because “the enormous weather lady” is “covering up the map.”
She refers to “these self-obsessed media/wx ppl (who) feel like it’s their right to push their agendas on us constantly but fury for anyone who talks back.”
Look, social media may be the ultimate venue to practice freedom of speech. However, when I see people without the courage to attach their real names to their opinions and with nothing better to do than to throw bombs at professional women continuing to do their jobs while on a journey of new life, I discover the ultimate definition of the word “sorehead.”
Thirty-seven years ago, my co-anchor at WTVM in Columbus, Ga., worked up until the final four weeks before she delivered because her doctor enforced bed rest in that final month. Southwest Georgia and East Alabama did not collapse when she began to show.
As a former news director, I worked with two women weathercasters. Neither of them underwent pregnancies when I was their supervisor, but if they had, I would have done the exact same thing as have the current news directors of Cindy and Marcy—offered unconditional and public support.
Mitch English is the morning anchor at KOKH and a gentleman with whom I periodically exchange tweets. On a recent Facebook post, Mitch sent this salvo: “Meteorologist Marcy Novak works her butt off and is so invested in getting the right/correct information out to viewers every morning. She does this while carrying another human being 24-7! We love ya Momma!!”
Cindy’s news director David Springer wrote: “We here at ABC 6 News support the strong, professional women that work here, especially those who continue to put in all the necessary hours while also being pregnant.”
My curiosity about these soreheads/trolls/flamethrowers is this: tell me about your amazing television set that contains only one channel and has no off button.
If you are offended by the sight of a pregnant woman doing a professional job that potentially could save your life one day, you have the option to fire her from your home by using your remote control device. In the mornings in Oklahoma City, you can flip from KOKH to ME TV. A word of warning: “I Love Lucy” is on in the early morning. You may see a pregnant woman if the rerun cycle is right.
We are about to depart a year in which viewers in Virginia watched two young journalists lose their lives on live television at the hands of a depraved former station employee. Their colleagues and others in the Roanoke area are still dealing with the pain of the senseless loss of Alison Parker and Adam Ward.
In stark contrast, can we not celebrate new lives about to enter the world? Neither Cindy Morgan nor Marcy Novak became pregnant to become activists or standard bearers. Yet, nothing becomes a rallying cry for those of us who have served local television communities than to see a colleague unfairly scorned, regardless if we know them.
To the bumbling dunderheads who are too lazy to turn the channel if they are offended by the sight of a pregnant meteorologist, I quote from Sheriff Andy Taylor in an episode where Goober was irritating him: “Go somewhere…..just go somewhere.”
To Cindy and Marcy, the large fraternity and sorority of broadcasters have your backs. Just remember the famous words of Don Hudlow, who said: “You’re going to encounter a lot of naysayers in this world…..and they’ve all been vaccinated with lemon juice.”