Dave Barry

Classic ’99: These weathermen know which way the winds blows

This Dave Barry column was originally published Sunday, June 20, 1999

Today I want to tell you about an exciting innovation in television programming from the Czech Republic.

By way of background, I should explain that the Czech Republic is a nation that very few Americans visit because they're not sure how to spell "Czech." This is a shame, because the Czech Republic is a fascinating place where many historic things occurred in the past. The Hapsburg Monarchy is only one example. Until 1993, the Czech Republic was connected with Slovakia; together they went by the name "Hungary." Today the Czech Republic is a proud and progressive nation that is working hard to overcome a shortage of vowels, as evidenced by the cities of "Plzen" and "Brno."

I first became interested in the Czech Republic in 1997, when I got a letter from a woman named Jana Duskova, who had been asked by a Czech publishing house to translate a book I wrote, about guys, into Czech. Ms. Duskova said she was having trouble with certain expressions I had used. In an effort to clear those up, she asked me the following eight questions, which I swear I am not making up:

"1. What is 'mooning'?"

"2. Is 'Phyllis Schlafly' a real person or not?"

"3. What is 'whoopee cushion'?"

"4. What is 'Pez'?"

"5. 'Banana Slug': I suppose it is a pun on the word 'banana plug' - or is it a real animal?"

"6. What does 'hot babe' mean?"

"7. What is 'pennant race'?"

"8. What does 'goobers' mean?"

I gave Ms. Duskova the best answers I could, considering that even leading biologists cannot say with 100 percent certainty whether Phyllis Schlafly is a person. And I remember thinking that I would like to visit the Czech Republic some day, to find out what a "banana plug" is.

Eventually I became concerned about other matters, such as lunch, and my interest in the Czech Republic flagged. But it was aroused again to its full height recently when I received a communication from Brad Freden, an alert American living in the Czech republic. Brad told me that a Prague TV station called TV Nova had come up with a groundbreaking concept in television programming: nude weather reports. Yes. As Brad explained it:

"At 11 p.m. every night a buxom woman or (more recently) a muscular young man goes on camera stark naked. He or she then does a reverse strip tease as the announcer reads the weather forecast. The amount and type of clothes he/she puts on depends on the forecast. .... TV Nova's ratings have gone through the ceiling since they added nude weather reports."

Needless to say, as a journalist I wanted to pursue this story. Tragically, however, my cable company does not offer TV Nova. This ticks me off, because I am WAY more interested in seeing the weather report for the Prague area than in some of the other channels that my cable company offers, such as the one that, 24 hours a day, shows some guy cooking in front of a live studio audience consisting of people so desperate for entertainment that they give standing ovations to nutmeg.

So I was unable to personally "czech" out (Har!) the frontal systems on TV Nova. Fortunately, I have a connection to the Czech community in the form of my research department, Judi Smith, whose mom, Vi Grace, is of Czechish descent. Vi e-mailed some friends of hers, Marlan and Mary Louise Nelson, who confirmed that, while visiting the Czech Republic, they saw the stark naked weather forecast. As Mary Louise put it: "That was quite the most amazing weathercast we had ever seen!"

I think this concept has great potential in the United States, and not just for weather forecasts. Think about it: We're always hearing that the American public is shallow and stupid and doesn't care about issues in the news. But maybe it's not the public's fault. Maybe the problem is that the people reporting the news are wearing clothes. Imagine how America would respond if the evening TV news was presented entirely by naked correspondents. America would throw up. Especially if there was a report from Sam Donaldson.

So we'd have to get some better-looking people in there, from all major genders. But if we did that, I think the public would become WAY more interested in the issues. ("I can't go bowling tonight, Bob! ABC News is showing an in-depth report on global warming by special environmental correspondent Elle MacPherson!") As an added benefit, if the press corps were naked, I bet the president would hold 14 press conferences per day.

If you think this is a good idea, I urge you to send the Federal Communications Commission a letter or crude crayon drawing. Do it today! Let's keep America well-informed, so that it will continue to be the greatest nation on earth - the nation that gave the world the precious gift of democracy and freedom. Also the whoopee cushion.

(c) 1999, Dave Barry

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