If you found that line offensive, you will faint when you watch what's on now, where less than half of the sexual content qualifies as innuendo. Now you can listen to the girls on WB's "Girlfriends" say, "Never touch my nipples with a cattle prod." Or watch the teen drama "Dawson's Creek," where a man suggested a woman has "breasts begging to be touched," and she replied he has "testicles begging to be castrated."
Still the overall picture suggests there's room for hope amidst the sleaze. Network executives have to acknowledge the emerging public mood. A 2001 survey in Family Circle magazine found that 93 percent of respondents had turned off the TV or changed channels during a program because of sexual content. A Kaiser Family Foundation survey released the same year indicated that 80 percent of parents were concerned about their children's overexposure to sex and violence. This general disgust over sleazy programming -- combined with the pressure brought to bear by a growing grassroots movement -- equals a force the networks can no longer afford to ignore.
ABC suffered for several years as it turned its back on the clean image it gained from many successful years of "Full House" and "Family Matters." It learned from the numbers and last fall announced a return to more family-friendly offerings. Even Washington Post TV writer Lisa DeMoraes noticed the hot new trend is "programs about families, for family audiences."
The positive movement should not inspire resting on laurels. The public should smile at the latest results, and then continue the push in favor of family-friendly TV programming. The problem of very "adult" content on network television isn't going away, and the sleaze of four years ago is now plastered across TV in afternoon reruns.
Perhaps the next big step is getting the FCC out of its coma and focused on the obstacle course of sludge that parents must negotiate nightly. The people allegedly own the airwaves, and the FCC is mandated by law to oversee them. But for now, the only cops on this culture beat are millions of parents, making a difference.