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Nudity on the Rise in Broadcast TV


Profanity is not the only area in which the broadcast TV networks are pushing the envelope. Increasingly this season, nudity is becoming standard even on prime-time programs.  


  • The September 19th season premiere of CBS’ sex-slathered sitcom Two and a Half Men featured new lead Ashton Kutcher’s character walking about naked, as the housekeeper leered at him in delight. Despite its history of crude sex talk, this was the first time nudity was shown on the program in its eight-year run.


  • The September 21st premiere of Fox’s The X Factor featured an extended sequence in which contestant Geo Godley dropped his pants and appeared to expose himself. This event was made even more disturbing by the fact that Fox deliberately promoted The X Factor as a singing competition, appealing to the same family audiences which made American Idol a hit.


  • On the December 9th episode of NBC’s spy drama Chuck, the lead characters encountered a nudist cult. Many scenes showed the dozens of cult members exercising completely nude. To fit in, the leads stripped and joined them.  


  • In a “this season on The Bachelor” trailer shown during the ABC program’s January 2nd season premiere, Bachelor Ben and a female contestant were shown naked from behind, stripping to go skinny-dipping in the ocean, the woman flinging away her swimsuit as she did so.


  • The January 4th episode of ABC’s sitcom Suburgatory featured a scene set in a sauna, during which one man opens his towel and “flashes” viewers while smirking, “Is this a ‘privates’ party?” The scene continues with repeated gratuitous shots of another man with his legs splayed open displaying his genitals, and a wrestling match between George and yet another man, who thrusts his crotch directly at the camera.


  • In addition to a plotline about the title character watching her boyfriend masturbate (and then telling all her female friends about it), the January 11th episode of NBC’s Whitney also gave Family Hour viewers a scene of Whitney pulling up her shirt and displaying her breasts during a party. 


  • Even the supposedly more dignified older generation is not immune to the broadcast networks’ fixation on nudity. During the January 16th episode of Betty White’s series Off Their Rockers, an elderly man runs naked through a mall while yelling, “I’m beautiful. Take my picture!” before being pulled away by a security guard.


  • And the January 19th episode of NBC’s The Office concluded with several male characters stripping off their swimsuits and jumping nude into a swimming pool.


In each of these cases, genitals or breasts were blurred or otherwise censored; but the mere fact that each of the broadcast networks now seem to think that gratuitous nudity is a requirement bodes ill for the future of family entertainment.


These programs do not air on a pay-per-view or premium cable channel, available only to adults who specifically purchase them. All of the above shows were broadcast over the public airwaves -- the same airwaves that are a public utility. The TV networks don’t own them, the American people do. Every TV station in America is required to have a license from the government in order to operate. The networks make hundreds of millions of dollars every year in profit from a utility the people allow them to use for free. It is hardly inappropriate for the public to demand in return a degree of responsibility and consideration for the millions of children and families who are watching television in the daytime or early evening.


But the networks don’t care about acting responsibly. Even as they are arguing before the Supreme Court for the “right” to show any content they want, any time they want, they claim they will never violate the public’s trust; but their behavior tells a different story. If the Court overturns broadcast decency laws, it will be perfectly legal for broadcasters to show full-frontal nudity – WITHOUT blurring – any time they please. The networks’ increasing use of nudity as a plot device is a clear sign of what they intend to do if they succeed in having decency laws obliterated.





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