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TV’s Writers on Strike, But Sex Continues

By Christopher Gildemeister


As the TV writers’ strike drags on, prime-time broadcast TV becomes ever more mired in an endless cycle of reruns and “reality” shows. When the strike began the networks held back a few episodes of their programs, and some are showing them now. Others had programs that were always intended to premiere at midseason, and some such shows are now being aired.


Unfortunately, the programming appearing in the last week is not substantially different from that which has gone before.


NBC continued its obsession with strippers, giving viewers of the network the fourth stripper-themed program in as many weeks; from the tassel-twirling stripper scenes on My Name Is Earl and Las Vegas, to the nearly full-frontal nudity of a later Las Vegas episode, to the latest example: strippers on Friday Night Lights.   


On the February 1st episode of Friday Night Lights, teenagers Matt and Tim are shown drinking beer at a strip club.  As strippers pole-dance before them, Tim recruits one stripper (clad in a tiny panty and garter belt) to give him a lap dance.  The girl dances directly before Matt as the teens continue to drink.


This was a particularly unfortunate and sad choice on the part of NBC. Friday Night Lights has been lauded for its positive portrayal of a small-town high school football team. Unlike programs like the CW’s Gossip Girl, which features ultra-wealthy teens hopping from bed to bed and using drugs, Friday Night Lights portrays its teenagers and their families in a genuine fashion, with its characters confronting realistic problems – and facing realistic consequences for bad decisions. While some teens certainly drink, and some may visit strip clubs, it is a sign of the coarsening of TV (and the increasing acceptability among entertainment industry insiders) that the program felt it necessary to include such material. Given the obsession with strip clubs seen across the NBC network, the inclusion of this scene could very well have been intended to “spice up” a heretofore down-to-earth program. One can only hope that the program retains its more realistic focus and does not succumb to NBC’s apparent desire to feature strippers on as many shows as possible.


Meanwhile, Fox programming flowed through a similar vein. While the Super Bowl happily spared viewers another episode of Family Guy and American Dad, Prison Break and Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles continued their blood-soaked violence, and The Moment of Truth humiliated yet more contestants.


But perhaps most unsettling was the January 29th episode of House, M.D. In the episode’s main story, a woman suffers from paralysis. As House looks for a cause, he questions the woman’s daughter, with whom the woman has a policy of absolute honesty:


House: "What's her favorite way to have sex?".........

Jane: "She used to like to be on top. Now she likes to be on her stomach so they can't see her scars."


The idea of an eleven-year-old girl being privy to the intimate details of her mother’s sex life is more than a little disturbing, but is typical of House. Far worse, however, was the episode’s secondary plot. Another woman comes to House and asks him to cure a mysterious rash. House responds with his typically brusque and graphic manner, deducing that the woman is a prostitute, and furthermore that she has sex with animals:


House: "Do you do a donkey show? I'm not curious. It matters."

Woman: "It's a donkey or a mule. I can never remember."

House: "Wow that's a creepy smile. I bet the donkey's is even creepier...

Antibiotic cream for you and a love glove for Francis. You'll both be fine."

Woman: "You should come see the show. I think you'd like it."

House: "Sorry, I hate Westerns."


Most people wouldn’t find bestiality a subject for humorous banter with their physician. But then, most people don’t have lives that resemble the programming on Fox.


As a final fillip, House later sees the woman at a church play, where she is portraying the Virgin Mary…riding a donkey. Even more offensive, if possible, is the fact that this episode was clearly intended to air at Christmas, but was delayed by Fox because of the writer’s strike. 


The strike continues…but the effects of Hollywood’s writers and their love of extreme sex, violence, profanity and irreverence continue to be seen on all our television screens.


Lucky us.


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TV Trends: Caroline Schulenburg and Adam Shuler contributed to this report.

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