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NBC Joins the TV Sex Parade

By Christopher Gildemeister


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.


Unfortunately, this is changing. Since the beginning of the New Year, NBC is increasingly joining the other networks in pumping sexual situations into its programming.


This unwholesome 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 iceberg. 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 his “breasts.”


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.


NBC’s newfound 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.

Caroline Schulenburg contributed to this report.

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