We all make mistakes from time to time, whether it’s in our professional or personal lives. Part of what makes us human is our fallibility. The real test is in knowing how to deal with those mistakes. How to confront them head on and turn them around. That is a real skill.
Jackie Gleason had that skill.
Gleason was an American actor and comedian. He also had a very short-lived career as a game-show host. On Friday, January 20, 1961, Gleason’s brand new game show You’re In The Picture was broadcast. That first episode was also its last.
The reviews of that first episode were bad. Very bad. So bad in fact that, in an extraordinary move, the following week, Gleason broadcast a 30-minute apology. “Last week we did a show that laid the biggest bomb — it would make the H-bomb look like a two-inch salute” Gleason said straight to camera, the bare brick walls of the empty studio visible behind him.
You can watch part of that first show, and Gleason’s apology here. Note how part-way through, he switches to plug the show’s cigarette company sponsors.
As we approach the general election in May, we’ve already seen an increase in the level of political bickering and petty point-scoring. This is only going to intensify over the coming weeks, but I think the nation would respect a politician who had the courage and decency to apologise for past mistakes rather than hiding behind weasel words and meaningless jargon. After all, things worked out well for Gleason. After broadcasting his apology, CBS changed the format of the remaining episodes to a looser talk/variety type show. When that came to an end, they gave him his own chat show which he went on to present for a further eight years.