Turner’s cheek

Jun 21, 2006 at 12:00 am

Frank Turner has a face made for radio. So why shouldn't he make that his full-time occupation?

Turner, the rubber-cheeked Channel 7 (WXYZ) news anchor with a patronizing on-screen chatter and self-righteous tone, is hell-bent on becoming, in his words, "America's First Evangelical Anchor." (How he knows there isn't one already, I'm not sure.) He has a deal on the table with local Christian station WEXL-AM (1340) to host a regular radio program when he isn't mugging for Channel 7. To no one's surprise — except Turner's, apparently — WXYZ, which has spent several years and piles of money rebuilding his Detroit media profile, isn't willing to share the fruits of its personality-making labors with another broadcast facility.

Though he's under contract with Channel 7, Turner is crying separation of church and station. He's filed a federal complaint with the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) claiming WXYZ is prohibiting his pursuit of religious expression by keeping him off the radio. He claims, surprise, that word of his grievance has leaked to the news media, yet his personal Web site (www.frankturner.org) beseeches fans and followers to deluge the station with letters, phone calls, e-mails and faxes on his behalf "if [God] places it on your heart."

In fact, Hour Detroit has gone so far as to declare this "Frank Turner's Holy War." Please.

Now that he's born-again, Turner seems to have developed selective amnesia about his previous life. He speaks openly about the depths of sin and depravity he has overcome but doesn't appear to recall the unbelievable lengths to which WXYZ has gone to accommodate him in the past. The station actually rehired Turner in 2000, two years after allegations of astronomical phone sex charges, coke snorting and sucking face with co-workers in the parking lot had virtually destroyed his reputation. Can you imagine any company hiring you back once your screw-ups made it the center ring of a media circus? (OK, maybe if your name were Bonds ...)

I'm not suggesting he show gratitude; that's a lost emotion in today's employer-employee relationships. But he already has been richly blessed. Am I missing something here? Is Turner really so good at his trade that he can expect a consideration no other on-air Detroit TV talent enjoys, even cloaking it under the name of religion?

His contract with Channel 7 is reportedly up at the end of the year. Any takers on whether it'll be renewed now? What, God is calling him to launch an evangelical radio career but isn't telling him to give up his six-figure salary? Judas must be his accountant.

The solution here is painfully obvious: If Turner truly can't wait a measly six months to become the new age version of Father Coughlin, he should pick up his mic and walk. Quit Channel 7. The Bible is filled with stories of believers who sacrificed everything in the name of faith; can you imagine how much more powerful Turner's testimony would be if he followed that legacy? The publicity? His last supper at WXYZ?

All true believers know that the Lord will provide. Let the people say amen.

Happy Trail to you: It's taken 22 years for American Movie Classics to produce an original "classic" movie of its own, and the cable channel didn't take any chances. They recruited the ageless Robert Duvall, hot Oscar nominee Thomas Haden Church, the marvelous Greta Scacchi and acclaimed director Walter Hill for a two-night Western epic titled Broken Trail, premiering on AMC at 8 p.m. on Sunday, June 25, and Monday, June 26.

The choice of a Western, the indigenous American story structure, is an interesting one, as men don't traditionally flock to classic movie channels. But there's a strong female presence to this tale, particularly in the quiet dignity and strength of five young Chinese women who have been sold into prostitution and rescued by a grizzled cowboy (Duvall, who does grizzled better than anybody these days) and his nephew (Church) as they drive 500 horses across the Wyoming plains.

This film is gorgeously staged, and the scenes of horses galloping across wide-open spaces are breathtaking. Regrettably, the visuals don't hold the movie by themselves: The script often seems little more than a disjointed series of set pieces as new characters pop up along the trail, and you get the distinct feeling that riding with these cowboys is a long, lonely experience. Broken Trail isn't broken, but it's notably damaged. If you decide to come along, go for the scenery.

Jim McFarlin writes about the boob tube for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected]