What a shocking contrast in dramas. In one, a religious leader walks his people out of slavery in Egypt and receives the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai. In the other, one housewife tries to bribe the neighborhood prostitute to remove her husband's name from her little black book, while another housewife who lost her indoor plumbing steals a Porta-Potty from a construction site.
Disney hasn't gotten this excited over an ABC hit since Regis Philbin's "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" took off. At least we don't have three nights a week of "Desperate Housewives" yet -- coming soon, "Desperate Housewives, Miami"? -- but Regis Philbin never bumped Moses off Sunday night.
ABC is promoting the show relentlessly, even in its "news" programming -- backstage with the show's wives on "Primetime Live," on the set with the husbands on "Good Morning America." ABC is also deliberately pushing this adult show on children. This morning, I heard from an outraged parent. "Can anyone tell me," he e-mailed, "why my 9-year-old watching ABC Family Channel at approximately 12:30 EST today needs to see and be exposed to explicit promos for 'Desperate Housewives'?"
A complaint like that is surely going to be dismissed by the Enlightened Ones guarding our popular culture meltdown. For example, New York Times columnist Frank Rich recently compared decency campaigners to the Salem witch-hunters and the Taliban, a religiously kooky minority holding America hostage: "At a certain point -- and we seem to be at that point -- fear takes over, allowing a mob to bully the majority over the short term." But who's "bullying" who? Who dishes out sleaze, and who has to live with it? And who is the majority?
Let us remember once again than in today's incredibly fragmented television world, the ABC audience number hailed as "gigantic," 24 million Americans, is less than 10 percent of our estimated population of 290 million, lest anyone want to draw grand political conclusions about our culture. Unfortunately, it's only that minority that really matters to ABC.