As another television season begins, it's time for parents to
determine which new shows require gunslinger-quick reaches for the remote
control. The new lineup begs another question: How did some of the truly
retched, thoroughly unpopular, destined-for-the-trashbin disasters from last
year -- survive?
Watchdogs of sleaze TV face an ethical quandary: Is it better to
draw attention to trash television offerings when they're Nielsen-starved,
or is it better to let them lay largely undiscovered? Exhibit A is "Off
Centre," mysteriously renewed for a second season on the WB network and
known only as that TV show made by the sex-crazed "American Pie" people.
Last year, in its first season, it was ranked as the second-most offensive
show on all of broadcast television for family viewing by the Parents
Television Council. It looks like the public agreed: The show ranked 101
out of 119, placing its toilet offering in the ratings toilet.
The PTC's ranking, apparently, was an outrage to executive
producer Danny Zuker - because it didn't get the blue ribbon for perversion.
In an interview with the entertainment Web site zap2it.com, he proclaimed,
"I take this as a wake-up call for us to try harder. I think this year I'm
going to have one of my characters ... actually eat a live baby on the air.
That might do it." This Zuker's a real ham.
See the dilemma? Zuker is clearly trying to shock his way into
more attention for his sputtering product. But he was on such an outrageous
roll, piling up the shock lines like a bad standup comedian, it's too hard
1. "We're just trying to do a nice family show. For the Manson
family. No, all we're doing are nice, heart-warming stories that they did on
"Leave It to Beaver," with three-ways and farting and giant poo."
2. "I'd like to think that underneath the lesbians and -- oh,
what else have we done? -- sexually transmitted diseases, that there's a
3. Asked how he would achieve top-sleaze status, he said, "I
want to introduce some Satanic elements into the show. We're going to keep
on doing what we do. I think we're going to go to the Bible and just do the
opposite as much as possible."
The Zukers of Hollywood mock God's word and call it humor. You
won't see that in any WB promotional materials, but I'm sure Zuker would say
it's all in a hard day's work "pushing the comedy envelope." His
entertainment motto is "reprehensible but funny," as in "we may be
reprehensible, and you may not like what some of our characters do, but it's
funny." To whom? To Zuker and some of his fellow workers at WB -- and that's
But that's all talk. What really matters is what's on the TV
screen. The show's plot revolves around two New York roommates - wild
British sex machine Euan and his comparatively uptight American roommate
Mike. Last year's episodes were just raunchy with topics centering on
venereal disease, whether couples should watch pornography together, and of
course, the episode about adult circumcision, drowning in male crotch
references. This team has the artistic talent of a coconut.
This year, the WB Web site promises that "Episodes will cover
how each character lost his or her virginity, cockfighting -- both literal
and figurative -- and a fierce competition to see who will be first to bed
beautiful twins. Euan will meet a woman whose anything-goes sexual exploits
prove to be too extreme even for him."
What's saddest about this is the situational ethics of the WB,
whose greatest success is the family drama "7th Heaven." One night is family
night, but another night is a pelvic parade. In an earlier dispatch on
zap2it.com, it was reported that WB officials watched last year's fourth
episode and said they liked it, and "don't do it again." Why? "It didn't
have anything overtly randy," said Zuker. Co-creator Paul Weitz said, "After
our first meeting, (WB President) Jordan Levin said, 'Don't let us soften
Like many of the top merchants of "adult" entertainment, Zuker
is a hypocrite. He says he won't let his own kids watch what he makes for a
living, but he pumps it out for everyone else's kids to emulate. What he's
producing is geared exclusively toward children -- teenagers, college kids
and the occasional adults who never grew up to learn about the joys of
commitment, love and sexual responsibility. Zuker's not the only hypocrite,
of course. The same can be said of the brass at WB, as well as its parent
AOL/Time Warner, since I suspect you won't find a soul who will endorse this
trash as suitable for children. And yet they renewed it for another year.