NBC Joins the TV Sex Parade
Until recently, NBC
has been the best (or perhaps a better designation would be “the least bad”) in
terms of inappropriate and offensive depictions of sex during prime time.
Certainly NBC’s new fall season did not feature the flood of tawdry,
sex-obsessed sitcoms and boundary-pushing dramas that ABC, CBS, CW and Fox did.
is changing. Since the beginning of the New Year, NBC is increasingly joining
the other networks in pumping sexual situations into its programming.
new trend was first evidenced this year on the premiere episode of Celebrity
Apprentice. One of the “celebrities” featured – and given the most
prominence in this particular episode – was Playboy Playmate of the Year
Tiffany Fallon, complete with a quick shot of her Playboy cover. In
allowing her to take a place with the other accomplished celebrities and
professionals, NBC implied that someone who takes her clothes off for a living
is every bit as respectable and appropriate a role model for children as an
Olympic gold medalist or a multi-platinum country singer. Also appearing in the
episode was Jenna Jameson, demurely billed on camera as an “Adult Film Star”
(i.e., “actress” in pornographic movies). The episode ended with Donald Trump
firing Fallon, after berating her for failing to enlist Hugh Hefner’s aid in her
enterprise. Trump sneers, “I’ve known a lot of Playmates of the Year,” and
repeatedly boasts of his close friendship with the elderly exploiter of women.
Nor was Celebrity Apprentice the only reality show to feature Playboy
centerfolds; the January 11th episode of the game show 1 vs. 100,
airing at the Family Hour of 8:00 p.m. ET (7:00 p.m. CT/MT) featured former
Playboy Playmates of the Month, triplets Nicole, Erica and Jaclyn Dahm.
But promoting porn stars and centerfolds is merely the tip of NBC’s tawdry
In keeping with the program’s continual downward slide,
the January 10th episode of My Name Is Earl showed Earl
himself becoming a stripper. While patronizing the suggestively-named Club
Chubby strip joint, Earl shines a laser pointer at a stripper’s chest, causing
her to fall off her pole and become injured. To make up his debt to the injured
stripper, Earl performs a striptease. He takes off his shirt to reveal tassels
covering his nipples. As the crowd hoots, Earl spins the tassels. Later, Earl
states that “some old Texan dude just offered to buy me a boob job.” Naturally,
this episode also aired during the Family Hour.
And, as if one
scene of breast-tassel twirling in a week were not sufficient, the very next
night’s episode of Las Vegas saw Danny, in an attempt to empathize with
his pregnant wife, donning a female fat suit – complete with tassels covering
While the foregoing
examples are distasteful, they are as nothing compared to the horrifically gory
scene of sexual violence that greeted viewers of Law and Order: Criminal
Intent on January 16th. Within a minute of the episode’s opening,
a camera focused on a pool of blood on the floor of a medical examination room.
Panning along the floor, the camera revealed a dead man’s body, his legs in
stirrups used for gynecological exams, his pants around his ankles. The puddles
of blood on the floor apparently emanate from the man’s mutilated genital
region, and the shot ends by showing a vaginal speculum jammed into the murdered
man’s mouth. This grotesquely graphic and gratuitous imagery is more appropriate
(if that is the word) to an R-rated movie than prime time broadcast television.
The episode, which also featured a teenage boy bragging about manufacturing
cocaine and calling a red-headed female police officer “firecrotch” as he swills
vodka, aired at 9:00 p.m. ET – which is only 8:00 p.m. in the Central and
Mountain time zones.
fascination with the tawdry shows no sign of abating. Prominent in NBC’s recent
prime-time advertising has been a commercial for the network’s forthcoming
program Lipstick Jungle. The ad goes on to show a woman’s dress being
ripped off, and an apparently nude man asking a female character, “Do you want
to take a picture?” But the commercial’s biggest brag is the tagline, “by the
creator of Sex and the City!”
If ever proof was
needed of network television executives’ desire to flood prime-time broadcast TV
with the graphic and explicit content previously reserved to adult premium
cable, that commercial provides it…with NBC as a willing collaborator.
Schulenburg contributed to this report.