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Cable Continues Its Downward Crawl



The broadcast networks are currently launching another fall season of new and returning programming; but as they do so, cable TV continues to indulge its own lapses in good taste…and unlike free broadcast TV, cable forces every viewer to pay for all programming, good and bad alike.


One bit of cable detritus which has been ongoing since July is the VH1’s latest appeal to crass moneygrubbing, coarse competition and sexual slang, I Love Money. Assembling the losers from such other VH1 vehicles as Flavor of Love , I Love New York , and Rock of Love, the unsubtly-named I Love Money pits individuals with ridiculous (and, as seen on screen, misspelled) nicknames like “Hoopz ,” “Toastee,” “Pumkin,” and “Nibblz” against one another in insipid and disgusting contests, replete with the now-familiar “reality-show” trappings of an exotic setting, leering innuendo and incessant back-stabbing by the competitors.


The program’s nausea-inducing premise was on full display in the August 31st episode, titled "Drunk With Power." In this uplifting interlude, the contestants competed in the “Spit Olympics." This contest was a misguided “tribute” to a past episode of Flavor of Love, lovingly recapped with footage from that show:


New York:  “Slap me, b****!” 


Pumpkin spits on New York


New York:  “You (bleeped motherf******) wh***.  You (bleeped f******) spit in my (bleeped f*****)



Flav: “That was (bleeped f*****) up right there.”



As the contestants participate in the Spit Olympics, naturally innuendo makes its appearance:


Brandi: “I would have to say I'm better at (bleeped swallowing) than spitting.”


After the viewer was treated to dozens of scenes of individuals spitting (for “distance, height and accuracy”), the ugly “reality-show” betrayal elements came to the fore:



Heather:  “You're crazy!  You're (bleeped f******) crazy!  You're (bleeped f******)

crazy! You're (bleeped f******) out of your mind.  You've been playing both sides, both of you, the whole time!” 


Brandi:  “(Bleeped) you!”


Heather:  “That's because I'm a (bleeped f******) threat, dude.” 


Megan: “B****! Out here!”


Heather: “You're just p***** cuz I got 12-pack and ya didn't.” 


And of course, no episode would be complete without a “sore loser” exit:


Heather: “I hope they all (bleeped f******) lose!  They all suck. They're all fake.  

don't think any of them deserve the money.  Some piece of (bleeped s***), some (bleeped a**) hole is going to get this money.”


Sadly, VH1 appears to have found its niche: blaring foul-mouthed, sex-slathered  and mindless “reality” contests across America’s cable and satellite systems. 



Also premiering last week on September 3rd at 10:00 p.m. ET was the FX network’s latest excursion into excess, Sons of Anarchy.  From the network that brought cable corrupt, murderous cops on The Shield, spousal rape on Rescue Me and incestuous necrophilia on Nip/Tuck comes a program devoted entirely to the exploits of an organized gang of gun-running, law-breaking bikers. 


Naturally, the nation’s TV critics went into paroxysms of ecstacy over the brutal program:  “bloody, disturbing and maniacally addictive” (Glenn Garvin, Miami Herald, September 3, 2008); “shockingly good” (David Hiltbrand, Philadelphia Inquirer, August 31, 2008); “violent, taut, [and] well written” (Verne Gay, Newsday, September 3rd, 2008); and, most bluntly, “I love this show” (Linda Stasi, New York Post , September 3rd, 2008). Also on September 3rd, the San Francisco Chronicle’s Tim Goodman opined, “Few series have exploded onto the scene with such a rich array of potential stories and inherently interesting characters.” (Goodman also gushed over the program’s “Shakespearean mythology” and compared the sadistic biker show to Hamlet. Yes, really.)


And what did the first episode of this “shockingly good,” “Shakespearean” drama contain? How about: a scene in which a policeman opens a trap door to reveal two dead children, who were trapped beneath a warehouse when it caught fire, with a closeup showing the children’s charred faces; a biker discussing the origins of his nickname “Half Sack”: “I got my left n** blown off by a APR frag in Iraq!” as he exposes his buttocks to the camera while displaying his mangled testicles to the biker before him (Jax: “Jesus Christ! Put that deformed n** bag away!”); lead character Jax’s pregnant ex-wife preparing to shoot meth, then shown collapsed with blood leaking from her crotch and pooling on the floor (Jax’s mother: “Stupid junkie b****!“); biker Clay telling Jax, “Only two things feel good in the joint -- jerking off and thinking of all s***  you're gonna do when you get out. Darvee's been in there for three years. I just want to make sure all his big shot dreams ended up in his c** rag and not on his to-do list”; another biker mocking Tag by implying he is a child molester: “Guess those little Thai boys are getting expensive, huh?” to which Tag wittily replies, “Yeah, they are. How about I slit your eyes and have you suck my d***?”; and the episode wrapping up with a good old-fashioned gangland execution. All this, AND over two dozen instances of the FX network’s signature use of the s-word! No wonder the critics think it’s a brilliant show!


Many Americans would disagree. In fact, most Americans DO –as is revealed by the fact that only a couple million viewers chose to tune in – out of an audience of nearly a hundred million.


Unfortunately, whether the program is I Love Money, Sons of Anarchy or another of cable’s misbegotten programs, the fact remains: every subscriber to cable or satellite TV – even if they never watch these shows -- is still paying for it.  

TV Trends: This column was compiled from reports by the Parents Television Council’s Analysis staff.


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