Bochco 1, Broadcast Standards 0
by L. Brent Bozell III
In a March 12 interview with the syndicated entertainment
news show "Access Hollywood," television producer Steven Bochco
stated that "the thing I'm really proud of is that I played a part in
dragging this medium, kicking and screaming, I think, into the late 20th
century." Actually, it's not the TV industry that's being dragged,
kicking and screaming - it greatly admires Bochco. The outrage he's inspired
comes from those who find his "innovations" - ever more graphic sex,
language, and violence -- tasteless and unnecessary.
Bochco's latest brainchild is the first-year police drama
"Brooklyn South" (CBS, 10 p.m. Mondays). The September 22 premiere
provoked an uproar long before it aired because of its raunchy language and,
especially, its gratuitous ultraviolence (by television standards).
Specifically, in one scene an officer is shot in the head and spurts blood all
over the place. But that is far from the only disturbing content: yet another
policeman also is shot in the head, albeit with less gory results. For
language, words like "a-hole" and "balls" are used
regularly. Now, the cynic would suggest that this reaction is precisely what
Mr. Bochco wanted. In the age of shock TV (see: "Ellen,"
"Roseanne") producers relish the promotional value of a good old
But this was no one-time thing. In fact, Bochco was just
warming up with the premiere.
A week later, a medical examiner tries to warn Darnell, a
ghetto kid, about the potential consequences of the drug trade. He shows
Darnell a body, explaining, "Here's where his genitals would have
been," then lifts the dead man's blood-soaked boxer shorts to expose
what's left of his privates. Obscenities like "a-hole,"
"dick," and "piss" are back again.
Welcome to the late 20th century, according to Bochco and
CBS. This, they seem to say, is not what television should be allowed to be;
it is what television should be, period. Virtually every week since,
"Brooklyn South" has underscored that point.
--October 13: In addition to three uses of "prick"
and one each of "a--hole" and "dick," the phrases
"hand job" and "I'm sorry I didn't make you come" enter
the prime time vernacular.
--November 3: A grisly murder scene in which police find
three victims, each shot in the back of the head; two uses of
"a--hole" and one of "prick."
--November 24: A man gets out of the bed he shares with his
girlfriend, exposing his naked rear to the camera; more coarse language.
--December 8: "A--hole" is heard twice;
"dick," "piss," and "prick" once each.
--January 19: A woman's naked backside is shown just after
she's had sex with her boyfriend; five uses of "dick"; one each of
"a-hole" and "balls."
-January 26: A woman is found dead in the trunk of a car,
her throat slashed, blood covering her body; more obscenities.
--February 2: Beyond the usual offensive language --
"a-hole," "dick," "piss" - a new word is
introduced to prime time: "Bulls-t."
Wow. But more important: Why? Why use your newly found
creative freedom this way? Naked rumps and cheap gutter talk do nothing to
increase the artistic worth of the show, so why do it? Because Bochco and Co.
can. Another wall of traditional values has come down - hurrah! That is the
only reason for doing this.
You probably haven't heard a great deal about "Brooklyn
South" since its premiere, primarily because its most outrageous material
isn't new to broadcast television and, therefore, isn't news. You see, ABC's
"NYPD Blue," another Bochco production, broke this ground several
years back. That program, currently in its fifth season, remains no slouch in
the raunch department. Simone (Jimmy Smits) and Russell (Kim Delaney) still
display their bare bottoms now and then, and Simone and Sipowicz (Dennis
Franz) curse with abandon. The shock value of such content is gone; the bar,
thanks to these programs (and cable's "South Park"), has been
lowered time and again.
I don't mean to reduce "Brooklyn South" to its
least appealing elements. Actually, yes, I do, especially because
they're so gratuitous for a show of such high quality. The obscene
language, the unclothed derrieres, and the gore are simply inappropriate, late
time slot or no late time slot, parental-guidance ratings or no
parental-guidance ratings, V-chip or no V-chip.
The Hollywood establishment, of course, is loving this. The
"Access Hollywood" interviewer, Nancy O'Dell, gushed that the end of
her piece that "Bochco the innovator is again pushing the envelope as he
forces television to new places... What an absolute pleasure it was to speak
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