Hollywood starts each TV season with the assumption that sex sells, and it's hard to say it doesn't when almost every show harps on sexual themes like an addled assembly line. Some succeed, some fail, and the ubiquity of sex makes it hard to determine whether sexed-up plotlines play a role.
The academic question for this fall season's premiering shows is: When raunchy shows fail, can the blame be placed on factors like bad acting, bad writing, bad scheduling, bad luck? Or do raunchy shows fail because of ... raunch?
Two of the biggest surprises to network programmers are the dismal ratings performance of NBC's "Coupling," the even more crotch-obsessed cloning of "Friends," and Fox's "Skin," the drama strategically situated in the pornography business.
The "Coupling" ratings have been so bad on Thursday nights just before the aging "E.R." that it's ruining NBC's hold on the key young-adult demographics and is threatening NBC's overall dominance on Thursdays. It's no wonder Jeff Zucker and other frightened Peacock Network geniuses rushed to put the show on "hiatus" for the November sweeps.
Critics were highly skeptical from the beginning about this show, which seemed to be an attempt to reproduce a BBC reproduction of "Friends." Viewers have been assaulted by the crass, artless series that never seems to roll out of the bedroom. The focus is not so much on sexual acts as on non-stop sexual chatter. Remove that, and there's no show. Its contribution to Western civilization is lines like this: "Oh, my God, I bought myself a small-penis car! I don't have a small penis. My car's a liar!"
In the series premiere, a male character explains the concept of how a friend and he are "porn buddies," and that if one friend dies, the other will go over to his place, clean out the porn collection and get to keep it. But that's classy compared to another episode, where two of the males get embarrassing erections at a funeral -- that's right, at a funeral -- and try to keep undertakers from moving the casket to avoid being discovered. Isn't that a recipe for giggles a-plenty? The "humor" comes when the undertaker asks if they'd like to get a last look inside the casket, and one says, "That ought to do the trick."
Proud NBC has become pathetic.