In mid-March, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) fined CBS stations $3.6 million for airing a long teen-orgy scene in the police series "Without a Trace." In response, some networks let it be known they were cutting back on the salacious new offerings for spring. Or at least they're making a public show of cutting back.
The New York Times reported that the WB was editing spicy scenes out of its new series "The Bedford Diaries." But there's a twist. The WB offered the uncut version of the pilot episode on its website to build buzz for its broadcast debut. Times TV writer Bill Carter quoted TV executives as saying the WB was furthering the spread of TV content to other mediums, computers and iPods, a move that increases the risk that "network television will be seen as passe by some of its audience, especially younger viewers."
What they really want is to taunt the FCC, to suggest their regulations are increasingly meaningless.
Series creator Tom Fontana said the publicity message of this stunt is that young audiences will be "forced to go alternative ways of looking at shows if they want to see the real thing." Rack up another in the endless assembly line of excuses as to why broadcast television just has to inevitably degrade itself another step in order to keep up with everyone who dares to push the line of social acceptability toward the outer fringes.
As for young audiences in need of the "real thing," hasn't that always been the story? Don't young people always want to sneak into the peep show? They used to have to wander around in the back of drugstores looking for magazines in plain brown wrappers to find the things that society deemed acceptable for adults but inappropriate for children. The big difference today is that television networks are now brazenly encouraging this behavior, even enabling it.
Consider the setting of this new WB series and see if this sounds like an exercise in "creative integrity," or like another attempt to titillate the young viewer. "The Bedford Diaries" revolves around students in a sexual behavior seminar at a New York college. The "diaries" in the title are the students' video diaries for the class. Their first assignment with their cameras is to examine their sexual past. The WB edited scenes such as "one that depicted two girls kissing in a bar on a dare and another of a girl unbuttoning her jeans" on her way to self-discovery.
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