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Bravo should cancel 'Princesses: Long Island' in wake of Ielpi insult
"Jonathan Lee Ielpi, 29, of Great Neck, was a New York City firefighter assigned to Squad 288 in Maspeth, Queens. He phoned his parents to let them know that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. "Jon, please be careful," his father told him. His body was recovered in the stairwell of the south tower on Dec. 11, 2001."
That's how Newsday's remembrance of Jonathan Ielpi begins in the paper's tribute to the fallen; the profile, published not long after his death, added a few more details:
"On Sept. 11, before heading to the Trade Center, Jonathan called Lee [his father] at home and told him to turn on his TV. He was last seen in the lobby of the Marriott Hotel, an area now jammed as much as six floors below ground level. The debris gets more densely packed, the deeper it goes.
"Time is wearing on us pretty bad," said Jonathan's wife, Yesenia, of Great Neck. The couple has two sons, 9-year-old Andrew and 3-year-old Austin, who still cries for his father every day. "I tell him that Daddy's an angel and one of God's helpers, but he wants God to give him back because it's been enough time," she said.
Now, last week's episode of "Princesses: Long Island": [Update: Please see note below] Cast member Amanda Bertoncini is conducting a photo shoot at the site of Ielpi's statue -- Great Neck Plaza, AKA Grace Avenue Park, AKA "Jon's Park," which memorializes not just Ielpi but other Great Neck residents killed on 9/11. She and her photographer friend, Ilton, direct the model to pucker up next to the statue -- "Now kiss the fireman, and try to feed him the beer, and wipe it off and act like scared... awesome..."
I know this not because of the news reports, the outrage expressed by Ielpi's family, the fury of the FDNY -- all of it fully justified. I know because the scene is still being replayed, over and over again on the episode, for anyone to see who tunes into the On Demand version.
[Update: Bravo finally got the message. A new version of episode 105 has been re-edited to remove the offending scene; the scene with Amanda disruping a public works crew during the photo session has been left instead. None of this, of course, changes my opinion here. There was an outcry yesterday, and they heard it. Bravo insists the footage was deleted from the on-air version immediately and that it takes a few days to switch out the On Demand, or VOD, version. My point: the VOD version should have been dropped immediately, or certainly never allowed to continue untouched in repeat for a full week. ]
It's right there -- even though Amanda Bertoncini has apologized via Twitter, and Bravo has promised that the offending scene would be removed; there was on-air mea culpa last (and again, a promise to remove the offending scene.) Don't take my word for it; go ahead and watch. It's been there all week.
So what gives with this? Honestly, I can only imagine that only one thing gives: Bravo and "Princesses," know exactly what they are doing -- the long list of insults to Long Island, to Jews and now to the FDNY, and to a fallen member -- a young fireman who died on 9/11. Show and network know exactly what they are doing -- manufacture fury so as to manufacture ratings. "Princesses" has now crossed the line of "craven" to some place that doesn't even really have a word -- but the word would be very bad, almost certainly unprintable here. These are now officially wanton apologies --engineered for the press and for publicity, for it is written that no publicity is bad publicity.
What to do? The right thing of course: End this show. End it now. Not another week. Not another day. Not another apology -- not another vacant empty remorseless utterance.
From Sunday night: "Bravo deeply regrets the inclusion of a scene disrespecting a 9/11 hero in last week’s episode. We have removed the footage from the program. Our thoughts are with those who lost their lives on 9/11."
There's really nothing left to say -- even especially with the offending scene still there for everyone to see. Just end it now. In my many years of covering TV, I've never once called for the cancellation of a series -- audiences ultimately take care of that for me. But this seems patently different for some very obvious reason, too obvious to spell out. Jonathan Ielpi, 29, of Great Neck, who died on Sept. 11, 2001-- who died alongside 342 other fireman that day -- left behind a family, and friends, and colleagues -- and a town. He deserves this. They deserve this.
Ironically enough, last week's episode began with that famous line (from Colossians): "Who ever can stop wrongdoing, but doesn't, will be punished."
I wonder if Bravo is listening. I wonder.