Vulgarians Inside the Gate
by L. Brent Bozell III
Television network executives are "vulgarians"
selling "dirt" and "filth," thereby sending America
"down a moral sewer" and "distort[ing] the ethical perceptions
of our children." The words of a fundamentalist preacher... A right-wing
media critic? No, this denunciation of the television industry came from
former "Tonight Show" host Steve Allen, in a June 9 speech at the
Banff TV Festival in Canada.
Coincidentally, also on June 9 the Parents Television
Council released its list of the most offensive programs on prime time network
television. It proves Mr. Allen's point.
Two series on the list - ABC's "High Incident" at
#6 and Fox's "Millennium" at #10 - made the grade because of their
violent content, a first for the annual rankings. Whereas violence on network
television had been in decline for over a decade, in the past year it's come
back, and on some shows - with a vengeance. Thus, those two programs made the
But for the rest, it was sex, raunch, vulgarities - and
political correctness to boot. The defunct "Life's Work," an ABC
sitcom which placed ninth on the PTC list, regularly featured sexual innuendo
and obscenities, including easily understandable uses of the f-word. One
episode of this worthless show contained a series of jokes about a man who
masturbated in public by rubbing against a tree.
Proceeding up the list, Fox's racy soaps, "Beverly
Hills, 90210" and "Melrose Place," came in at #8 and #7,
respectively. (Making it worse, each aired during the 8 o'clock so-called
family hour.) In their season finales, "90210" saw the cast's last
virgin, Donna, on the verge of being deflowered, and "Melrose"
endorsed gay adoption. So predictable. All that and their customary, ongoing
touting of promiscuity, and again neither show finished
anywhere near the top.
The #5 and #4 entries, ABC's "Spin City" and NBC's
"Friends," torqued up both the raunch and the gay agenda. Both
series focus on frisky, single young New Yorkers who frequently discuss sex
when they're not engaged in it. Both include considerable foul language.
"Friends" features two recurring lesbian characters who are
"married" and raising a child; "Spin City" features a
regular gay male character. "Friends" airs at 8 p.m. Thursdays;
"Spin City" will air at 8 Wednesdays beginning in the fall. Both are
too adult for children and too childish for adults. If "Married... With
Children" were based on a true story, the Bundys would find these
At #3 was "Cybill," starring pro-gay rights and
abortion crusader Cybill Shepherd. Since its characters are older than those
on "Friends" and "Spin City," they can not only condone
casual sex, they can go further, ridiculing marriage and making light of
divorce. The best thing I can say about "Cybill" is that it doesn't
air in the 8 p.m. hour. In fact, that's the only good thing I can say about
The winners: at #2, "Men Behaving Badly" (NBC), to
which the #1 (and, praise be, canceled at last) "Married... With
Children" (Fox) has passed the baton of crassness. These shows not only
promote easy sex and rude language, they glorify stupidity. Unsurprisingly,
NBC, where good taste apparently followed Brandon Tartikoff out the door a few
years ago, is moving "Men" to 8 p.m. Sundays effective next fall.
Come, children, let us gather 'round. Let us learn to be... morons.
Mr. Allen's speech, and his tough words of reproach to an
industry he assuredly loves, deserve attention. It offers further proof that
addressing the rot on entertainment television is a nonpartisan cause. Indeed,
it offers further proof that lines drawn up for the culture wars transcend
traditional political boundaries.
When the PTC took out an advertisement in Daily Variety
asking the networks to voluntarily restore family programming to the 8 o'clock
hour, over 100 members of Congress, Republicans and Democrats, from Newt
Gingrich to Ron Dellums, signed on. Allen, a longtime liberal, also is
troubled by this cultural pollution and is speaking out. On the other hand,
conservative writer Ben Stein - in a question-and-answer session after a
Washington speech delivered on, yes, June 9 - claimed that "Married...
With Children" is as good as any sitcom, ever. One wonders if he's giving
the GOP public relations advice, too.
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