Primetime or Slime Time?
It might surprise some readers, but I’m actually not old enough to have watched original broadcasts during the infamous “golden days” of television. You know, those days when Lucy and Ricky Ricardo’s bedroom had two twin beds in it lest viewers get the idea that they actually slept together as husband and wife – or when “Gone with the Wind” couldn’t be shown on network television without censoring Rhett Butler’s shocking “Frankly, my dear …” rebuke to Scarlet.
I did watch every saccharin-sweet episode of “Flipper” and “Lassie,” but also grew up watching Roadrunner/Wiley Coyote and Bugs Bunny cartoons with more violence (albeit of the animated type) every five minutes than an entire hour-long episode of CSI today. I would plant my wide-eyed self in front of our family’s black and white TV so I wouldn’t miss a single episode of “Sea Hunt” or “The Rifleman” (I can even tell you how many shots Lucas McCain fired from his modified lever-action Winchester in the opening of the show each week*).
I developed a deep appreciation for fantasy and horror shows with a regular diet of Fright Night, Creature Features, Rod Serling’s “Night Gallery,” “The Twilight Zone,” “The Outer Limits,” the “Night Stalker” and other deliciously scary shows. Good times, indeed.
I’ve been thinking about TV and how it’s changed over the years because the U.S. Supreme Court this week began considering whether the Federal Communications Commission’s efforts to police the national airwaves for “dirty words and images” violate the broadcast-television industry’s right to free speech. According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, if the Supremes side with broadcasters, industry experts say that networks are poised to begin showing racier content and/or language like that now found on cable-channels, Internet video domains and other forms of entertainment that aren’t subject to the FCC’s indecency standards.
As if network TV isn’t already “racy” enough.
If you watch any network lineup, you know there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of censorship or standards of any kind being imposed on broadcasters.
NBC’s Wednesday night lineup makes my point. For example, a week ago on the network’s new hit show, “Whitney,” the entire “plot” involved Whitney catching her live-in boyfriend in the act of, well, let’s just say he was taking matters into his own hand. Next up, the pilot episode of “Are You There Chelsea?” dealt with that endlessly hilarious subject of a DUI conviction. Too funny. After that, the season premier of “Suburgatory” was about the lead character Tessa – a high school student – trying to convince a new student to admit he was gay. By the end of the episode it was actually the school’s guidance counselor who came bursting out of the closet. And yes, “Suburgatory” is a comedy. LOL.
Of course, if you’ve ever seen Fox’s mega-hit show “Glee,” you know that when the students at McKinley High are boning up on their studies, it has nothing to do with cracking the books.
And there’s the wholesome (hole-some?) family entertainment flushed into living rooms each week courtesy of CBS and its highest rated show, “Two-and-a-half Men.” To be fair, the show is brilliantly written and acted and I’ve laughed my head off whenever I’ve watched. But I could never watch with anyone below the age of 18 in the room, and even then I would feel awkward. It’s raunchy stuff. In fact, about the only thing it – and the majority of other primetime shows on the networks don’t have – are the actual swear words and full frontal nudity still banned by the FCC. But it looks like that may soon be changing, as well.
I’ll have more thoughts on this subject next week. So, as they say in TV land, stay [bleep]in’ tuned.
I’ll see you ’round town.
(* For the record, the Rifleman fires 13 shots from an 11-round capacity rifle. Nice trick.)