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TV Trends

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The Fall 2008 Season: More Strange Sex 



Last week’s TV Trends column noted that with the fall 2008 season, broadcast TV’s prime-time programming is again largely focused on sex. In addition to a major emphasis on teenagers having sex, the season’s new and returning shows also feature a preoccupation with sex …and the more unusual and extreme the sexual content, the better the networks apparently like it.


It should come as no surprise to anyone that the Fox network led the way in enthusiastically embracing extreme sexual content. The fall premiere of Seth MacFarlane’s feculent Family Guy (September 28th, 9:00 p.m. ET) featured a storyline in which talking dog Brian meets the girl of his dreams, Carolyn – who proceeds to have sex with neighbor Cleveland instead.  Multiple times throughout the episode, Brian is confronted with the scene of Carolyn and Cleveland having sex, at one point even hearing Cleveland climax: “Wait, wait, wait.  Ahhh!  And boom goes the dynamite!” Finally, after telling Brian he will remember his sex with Carolyn forever, Cleveland asks, “Brian, do you think you can identify a genital wart?”


Not to be outdone, MacFarlane’s allied animated atrocity American Dad, airing half an hour later on the same night, devoted an entire episode to son Steve’s pubic hair. Eager to display his entry into puberty, Steve runs down the stairs, hops on the coffee table, and drops his trousers to show the whole family his crotch.  Later in the episode he again displays himself as he boasts, “Look at my pendulous nads.  Every time I walk, it's like a game of gnip-gnop.”


Though MacFarlane typically pollutes Fox’s Sunday nights with his ordure, it was sad to note that even the long-running Family Hour cartoon The Simpsons joined in the obsession with sex on that premiere night, with mother Marge getting a job in an “erotic bakery.”  Though nothing was explicitly shown, it is a sad comedown for the once-witty Simpsons to descend to jokes about “freshly frosted ass cake” and “day-old whangs."


But it is not only Fox’s cartoon shows that are wallowing in bizarre sexual content as was demonstrated by the season premiere of NBC’s Lipstick Jungle (September 24th, 10:00 p.m. ET). Based on a book by Sex and the City creator Candace Bushnell, Lipstick Jungle focused obsessively on Nico’s affair with the younger Kirby in its first season. The show’s recent fall premiere opened at the funeral of Nico’s husband Charles. Though at first Nico feels guilt and remorse for committing adultery, she is absolved by the discovery that her husband had done so first. Nico is also the recipient of some bizarrely explicit advice from friend Dahlia on how to improve her sex life. Dahlia urges Nico to have Botox injected into her G-spot, thereby making it more sensitive: “Plan for some fun soon afterwards, my girlfriend!” Dahlia enthuses. “Katie said she was so sensitive, she had to jump off the E train... all the vibrating!”


An obsession with women’s genital regions was also to be found on the premiere episode of CBS’ new program The Ex List (October 3rd, 9:00 p.m. ET). The program’s premise of a woman (Bella) being told that she has already met her soulmate, and therefore revisiting her past relationships, would lead one to anticipate a program filled with nostalgic and bittersweet romance. It would not lead one to anticipate an extended discourse on the disadvantages of a woman shaving her pubic region – yet that is what greeted viewers on the show’s first episode, as Bella’s friend Vivian lifts her skirt and displays her naked crotch to Bella:


Vivian: "What do you think? I was afraid the Hitler made me look too fat

so I went with the Ghandi."


Bella: "You want my honest opinion?"


Vivian: "Of course."


Bella: "My main thought is, really?  I mean, come on already.  You ladies

and your advanced grooming.  When did having a vagina become a full time

job!?  You know how much pressure you're putting on the lazy, pain

fearing Lincolns of the world?...You teach high school history.  You should have

pubic hair."


But Vivian’s new look is a turnoff to her boyfriend Augie – which is also discussed in graphic (and tedious) detail:


Augie: "Look, I'm sorry, but wouldn't it be gross if that turned me on?

You look like a 10 year old girl.  I feel like a pervert."


Vivian: "You got used to the Hitler."


Augie: "Well, the Indian pacifist is just not my thing…I'm sorry, I grew up looking at my dad's Playboys from the ‘70s, OK? Real boobs and shag carpeting."


Vivian: "Times have changed, Augie. Girls have gone wild!...I don't care if I painted it blue and hung shingles on it.  You should never ever walk away from it.  EVER!"


In her desire to please Augie, Vivien glues a merkin, or pubic wig, to her crotch, but then finds she cannot remove it. This discovery is greeted with still more prurient and puerile persiflage which would be pointless to reproduce. Suffice it to say that the program has continued its obsession with sex into its second week, with Bella copulating with still another ex. What could’ve been a series exploring romance and lost love instead promises to be a weekly excursion into amatory excess.


Of course, The Ex List is far from being CBS’ only entry into the explicit sex sweepstakes. Now in its sixth season, Two and a Half Men continued its endless rounds of sleazy sex jokes on its September 29th premiere (9:00 p.m. ET), with Judith bribing teenager Jake into work by giving him a Playboy; the October 6th episode with Alan having sex with two women at once; and the October 13th episode with Charlie having sex with Alan’s receptionist (as teen Jake laments that Charlie once had sex with his fifth grade teacher: “I was a little jealous…she had a rockin’ bod!”)


Even the Disney-owned ABC network is showing no shame, between sex scenes in a limousine on the October 1st Dirty Sexy Money, and a married couple who turn out to be brother and sister due to both of their mothers using the same sperm donor on the October 8th episode of Private Practice. Addison cautions them they cannot have sex, “because no birth control is 100%.” (Curiously, this was not a point made in the previous episode, when a doctor merely told a sexually-active 14-year-old “Condoms! Condoms! Condoms!”) These scenes are in addition to the sex-soaked storylines on such ABC programs as Desperate Housewives and Grey’s Anatomy, as well as the constant philandering and genital references to be found on David E. Kelley’s Boston Legal.


As is now typical of broadcast entertainment – and as the PTC noted in its study of sex and marriage on prime-time TV, Happily Never After – TV no longer portrays sex as something proper to marriage or, often, even to a committed relationship. Rather, on television it has become an animalistic behavior, to be engaged in on a passionate whim, without deep emotion or concern. Sexual activity, genitals and even the human self are thus reduced by the entertainment industry to merely one more commodity, to be used by individuals for their own selfish pleasure – and by the networks for their selfish profit.


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


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