NBC's Non-Family Formula
by L. Brent Bozell III
Prime time television's ratings leader, NBC, last Monday
[note to editors: May 12] became the first network to announce its schedule
for fall 1997. The peacock web has long prospered despite airing minimal
family programming, and judging from what it has planned, it apparently
believes that if the bottom line ain't broke, don't fix it: once again, shows
suitable for all ages are the exception to the rule. In other words,
"Must See TV" is a must to avoid for those concerned about cultural
An ongoing and disturbing trend at NBC over the past few
years has been to shift racy sitcoms, such as "Friends," "Mad
About You," and "Wings," from the 9 o'clock to the 8 o'clock
hour without toning down their adult content - and without alerting parents,
which a content-based ratings system would do (that's why the networks are
fighting it). This spring, "NewsRadio" became the latest
family-unfriendly NBC program to enter the former "family hour." Now
the network has another such move planned for the fall, and it's a doozy: the
extremely vulgar "Men Behaving Badly," shown this season on
Wednesdays at 9:30, is set to air Sundays at 8.
For those of you lucky enough not to have seen
"Men," the main thing you need to know is that its beer-swilling
slob protagonists, Kevin and Jamie, make Al ("Married... With
Children") Bundy seem refined by comparison. On their first date, Kevin
and his girlfriend, Sarah, "got hammered at a party and did it on a bed
full of coats"; subsequently, they had sex in a photo booth at the mall.
Jamie's no slouch when it comes to promiscuity: he boasts of having fifty-six
hours of "nonstop sex" with a woman he's just met. Youngsters
shouldn't be exposed to this garbage, and adults should be embarrassed to
admit they tune into it. (By the way, earlier this season "Men"
stars Ron Eldard (Kevin) and Rob Schneider (Jamie) reportedly were displeased
with NBC because it wasn't allowing the series to live up (down?) to the even
raunchier standard set by its original British version.)
"Men" will be followed on Sundays by a new Jenny
McCarthy sitcom and a movie. The McCarthy vehicle is an unknown quantity, and
the movie will be different each week. Nonetheless, the presence of
"Men" earns NBC's Sunday lineup a preseason family viewing grade (PFVG)
Here's a night-by-night look at the rest of NBC's prime time
schedule, excluding news programming.
Mondays: "Suddenly Susan," "Fired Up,"
"Caroline in the City," "The Naked Truth."
"Caroline" is the most sexually obsessed of the four, but not one is
fit for youngsters. PFVG: D.
Tuesdays: "Mad About You," "NewsRadio,"
"Frasier," "Just Shoot Me." The witty "Frasier"
is the tamest of this group, but it's on at 9; the frisky "Mad" and
the friskier "NewsRadio" air in the "family hour." PFVG:
Wednesdays: "The Tony Danza Show" (new),
"Built to Last" (new), "3rd Rock from the Sun,"
"Working" (new), "Law & Order." Not bad. The
descriptions of the first two shows are encouraging: Danza plays a
sportswriter who, according to publicity material, is "bent on raising
his two daughters with a few old-fashioned values," and "Built to
Last" is a "heartwarming comedy about a proud, middle-class family
that owns a contracting business in Washington, D.C." Also, the racy
"3rd Rock" has been moved from 8 to 9. PFVG: B-.
Thursdays: "Friends," "Union Square"
(new), "Seinfeld," "Veronica's Closet" (new),
"ER." Thursdays have been libidinous on NBC since the heyday of
"Cheers," and nothing I've heard about the two new series suggests
anything will change. PFVG: D-.
Fridays: "Players" (new), "Homicide: Life on
the Street." "Players" is worth keeping an eye on if only
because it stars Ice-T, whose crimes against humanity include writing and
performing "Cop Killer" and declaring that the day the Los Angeles
riots began was "the happiest day of my entire life. I'm so proud the
people got out there and made some muthaf---in' noise." If this sort of
poison finds its way into the scripts, "Players" could become the
most offensive show on NBC. PFVG: D.
Saturdays: "The Pretender,"
"Sleepwalkers" (new), "Profiler." "The
Pretender," a 9 o'clock offering for most of this season, has
occasionally contained premarital sex, making it a dubious choice for family
viewing. That's too bad, because it's usually a positive series that teaches
compassion and fair play. If in its new, earlier time slot it purges the
objectionable material and targets a younger audience, as ABC's "Lois and
Clark" did with some success a few years ago, NBC may have an all-ages
winner. PFVG: C.
Overall PFVG: D. The most-watched network on television,
patronized by a public that denounces the sad state of it all.
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