"Passions'" creator responds to protests about use of monkey "nurse:" "If nurses knew how much we pay BamBam per day, they'd all be putting on monkey suits"
February 7, 2004 -- This week's "TV Guide" includes a special box below Michael Logan's "On Soaps" column about the efforts of NBC's soap "Passions" to have BamBam, the orangutan who plays Nurse Precious, be considered for a daytime Emmy award. The box also mentions the Truth's campaign protesting the show's degrading vision of nursing--wrongly claiming that we had "blasted" BamBam himself, rather than the producers--and has a quote from "Passions" creator James E. Reilly (above) that beautifully captures the show's attitude toward nurses and monkeys alike.
The "TV Guide" box states that the Truth recently "blasted" BamBam himself for painting an inaccurate picture of nursing and contributing to the nursing shortage, as if we really thought the problem was the monkey's acting: if BamBam could just get across the script's vision of how real monkey nurses save and improve lives every day, that show would rock! We believe that the production and writing decisions the Truth is actually protesting are the responsibility of producers Lisa de Cazotte, Richard R. Schilling, Mary-Kelly Weir, Jeanne Haney, Denise L. Mark, and Mr. Reilly. We doubt that "TV Guide" meant to suggest that the real creative force behind "Passions" is an orangutan, though we do recall the old remark about a thousand monkeys typing for a thousand years and turning out the works of Shakespeare. "Passions," with one monkey, turns out five hours of new shows each week.
Mr. Reilly's comment is, well, precious. We're sure that the animal rights activists at PETA (who have their own campaign to remove Nurse Precious from the airwaves) will be thrilled that BamBam--as opposed to his human owner or trainer--is so well paid. No doubt that US currency is a great comfort to a captive orangutan. Actually, we wonder if that kind of acting work would appeal not just to burned-out nurses, but even to some of today's beleaguered physicians. We assume that "Passions'" lack of monkey physicians is just a temporary oversight.
Some feel the Truth's concern about Precious is misplaced because this is all a big joke, and no one would seriously compare nurses with monkeys. We wish that were true, but it is not. For example, one nurse recently wrote to the makers of "Passions" that a physician had once told her: "I could train monkeys off the street to do your jobs!. In addition, representatives of a California hospital group engaged in 1990's contract negotiations told union negotiators--without irony--that nursing was so simple, nurses could easily be replaced with monkeys. These comments indicate that nurses--despite being highly skilled professionals with years of college-level training--are fighting inaccurate popular beliefs that are so deeply held, even many of their own colleagues share them.
So what about the real nurses who resent the show's ongoing suggestion that a monkey could do their job--the nurses who struggle to save patients despite rampant short-staffing, which is driven partly by the widespread disrespect that mass media products like "Passions" promote? What are NBC and the "Passions" producers saying to those heroic nurses?
Let them eat bananas.
March 2005 -- Precious is now off the air please see our update.