Lost in the hype over the wildly overpublicized finale of "Friends" was its legacy: horny sex chat is now part of the family hour. Because of "Friends," parents now have the unwelcome opportunity to explain (or more likely, dance around explaining) things like premature ejaculation to grade-schoolers.
Die-hard fans are calling it the end of an era, but all is not lost. Children getting off the school bus will probably be able to see the same old "Friends" sex follies at mid-afternoon every day in syndication on local stations or cable outlets, including on TBS, where it will probably air next to the edited reruns of the bed-hopping hotties of HBO's "Sex and the City." These shows may have fanatical followings and hipster credentials, but it's awfully hard to imagine them as classics in a television museum -- unless someone 100 years from now wants to see how at the turn of the century we were so sexually enlightened we just couldn't shut up about it.
There's more dying here than just the show.
Individual careers, like television shows, wax and wane, and one of the less publicized trends is the decline of some of television's hardest envelope-pushers. The once-hot producer Steven Bochco is getting ready to wrap up the final season of "NYPD Blue," the ABC drama with the very irregular schedule and the regular nudity. By this point, getting naked is so blase that it doesn't excite anyone except denizens of the "Mr. Skin" Web site wanting to know when they can see actress Charlotte Ross's tush on free TV.
It seems to be an even harder fall for producer David E. Kelley. Just five years ago he was presiding over both the Emmy winner for best comedy ("Ally McBeal") and the Emmy winner for best drama ("The Practice"). Previously he took home Emmys for his work on "L.A. Law" and "Picket Fences." But his recent slate of programs has been a succession of train wrecks. The 1999 ABC spy drama "Snoops" was quickly put out of its misery. His 2002 Fox show "Girls Club," about female lawyers played by three charisma-challenged actresses, was literally on the air for only two weeks before it, too, was mercifully yanked from the schedule. Last fall, his CBS drama "The Brotherhood of Poland, New Hampshire," tried to center a show around three fat, middle-aged white brothers with sexual problems. You can guess how long that lasted.
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