Special Entertainment Edition. "F*** Reagan"
1) The May 20 edition of ABC's Politically Incorrect, which looked at the potential court-marshaling of Air Force pilot Kelly Flinn, turned to criticism of the handling of AIDS during the Reagan years. Panelist Harvey Fierstein, a gay rights activist and Tony award winning actor famous for flaunting his homosexuality who is best known for his supporting role in the movie Mrs. Doubtfire, displayed a little hatemongering.
The May 22 Daily Variety reported that Fierstein told radio talk show host Mike Reagan: "F*** you and f*** your father!" ABC edited out the attack before the show aired. Remaining in the show as broadcast, Fierstein's hostile remark in response to host Bill Maher's question: "What do you think about the fact, you know, Larry Kramer, a gay playwright, accused [President Reagan] of being a murderer because he wasn't doing enough about AIDS?" Fierstein shot back: "It wasn't that he didn't do enough about AIDS. We do have the leader of the free world not even say the word AIDS! Not even say the word AIDS in the first three years while thousands..." Mike Reagan interrupted, "But does that make him a murderer? But that's what he was called."
2) The networks recently announced their fall lineups on the heels of congressional leaders showing support for a voluntary reinstatement of the family hour, but the networks have only made the problem worse.
As demonstrated in a May 8 study completed by Tom Johnson and released by the MRC's Parents Television Council, the 8-9pm ET (7-8pm CT) family hour is replete with vulgar language and sexual content. In The Family Hour: No Place for Your Kids, we examined four weeks (Jan. 30 thru Feb. 26) of network programming and determined:
-- One third of the programs (48) contained at least one use of an obscenity, while 31 percent (44) of the programs included at least one reference to sexual intercourse.
-- All but one network (WB) aired more TVPG-rated shows than TVG-rated, or shows appropriate for all audiences, during the family hour.
-- Of the 86 TVPG-rated shows, meaning they're supposedly appropriate for everyone except young children, 36 percent, or 31, contained sexual references, and 49 percent, or 42, included obscenities.
To read the full report, go to: http://www.parentstv.org
So, how did the networks answer the request to broadcast only family-friendly programming in the first hour of prime time? By scheduling some of the least family-friendly shows at 8 or 8:30 pm. Often, these shows carry TVPG or TV14 ratings -- the networks own admission that these series are not suitable for audiences of all ages.
-- CBS has announced The Nanny, a sit-com starring Fran Drescher as Fran Fine, the nanny to the children of a Broadway producer, will keep its 8pm Wednesday slot despite its sexual content. On the May 21 episode rated TVG, for instance, the show opened with Fran's best friend Val commenting on her cat having kittens: "It's springtime, Fran, everyone gets all hot and bothered. You know, the Discovery Channel says it affects all living orgasms." Fran replied, "Orgasms, Val? What were you watching, Norm Crosby's Wild Kingdom?"
-- Fox has returned Melrose Place to the 8pm hour notwithstanding its usual TV14 rating. On the May 19 season finale, the bartender, Jennifer, questioned Heather Locklear's promiscuous character, Amanda, about her newly reached decision to attempt celibacy: "C'mon, Amanda, no sex ever? At all? God, I couldn't last a week..."
-- NBC moved Men Behaving Badly from 9:30 pm Wednesday into the family hour at 8pm Sunday. The series belied this early time slot with the TVPG rated May 21 season finale which aired at 8:30 pm in which the bachelor roommates Kevin and Jamie took advantage of a client's hotel suite. Kevin offered a beer to Jamie, who is in the hot tub, and then asked, "Roasted nuts?" Jamie, in obvious reference in his genitalia, replied, "Why, yes, it is a bit hot in here." Later, while watching a pornographic movie Jamie cheered, "She's taking her top off!" Kevin observed: "Watching a porno movie with your buddy is kinda weird. You can't really, you know, get fully aroused."
-- ABC moved its most sexually explicit sitcom, Spin City, from 9:30 pm Tuesdays to 8pm Wednesdays. The series stars Michael J. Fox as Mike Flaherty, the deputy mayor of New York. On the April 29 episode the mayor is the sole member of the audience who doesn't stand to applaud at the close of a woman's speech. The reason? He has become aroused while watching the woman. Mike encouraged his boss to stand: "People are starting to stare at you, sir. What's the matter, [is] your foot asleep?" The mayor replied, "No, no, there's another part of me that's very, very awake." Later, a woman asks Mike, "Can't you guys control these things?" Mike answers, "You can scold it. Smack it around a little bit. That only seems to encourage it."
3) Some liberal paranoia on the X-Files? The Fox series The X-Files centers on FBI agent Fox Mulder's quest to prove how the government has covered up the fact that extraterrestrials have visited Earth. He's accompanied by Dana Scully, his more skeptical partner. The many twists and turns in the series often defy political categorization, but how the season finale ended is worth noting.
On the May 18 episode a character argued that the government is fabricating evidence of extraterrestrials in order to encourage Mulder's belief in alien life forms. They hope that he will go public with the false information and thus stir fear in the American public which will in turn increase defense spending. Michael Kritschgau, an employee in the research division of the Pentagon, explained to Mulder that he has been used to perpetuate a hoax. Mulder asks Kritschgau how he became aware of the government's plot. He explained:
"Working for the DOD watching a military-industrial complex which operated unbridled and unchecked during the Cold War creating a diversion of attention from itself and its continued misdeeds by confabulating enough believable evidence to convince passionate [believers] like yourself that it really could be true." He added: "Their lies are so deep the only way to cover them is to invent something even more incredible."
The Pentagon employee says he offered this disclosure because of another government cover-up, Persian Gulf Syndrome, revealing that his son who served in the Gulf War became critically ill. He informs Scully that her cancerous brain tumor was engineered by those responsible for deceiving Mulder. They wanted him to assume it was caused by contact with those who had been visited by aliens.
In the fall we may learn this whole theme was just a rouse (Mulder supposedly died in the season finale, yet he'll be back in the fall), but it is one with political overtones.
"The idea is to take the show back to its roots and rejuvenate the program...We want to try to make the show more political. When we started we were a little more aggressively political. We took constant advantage of topical events as they happened..." The May 19 season finale positioned Murphy to do just that as President Clinton offered her a job. She told her co-workers: "[President Clinton] brought me into his office and told me he respected the fact that I spoke my mind and that I had the guts to stand behind what I said. Well first he droned on and on for a while and then he offered me a job...to be his senior advisor with an office in the White House."
Ironically, Candice Bergen appeared as Murphy Brown on the May 12 episode of the CBS sit-com Ink, a show not re-newed for the fall. Characters from both shows came together to appear on a television political panel made up of Columbia University journalism grad school alumni. Mary Steenburgen's Ink character, Kate Montgomery, the Editor of the New York Sun, had this to say of the Dan Quayle/Murphy Brown debate which CBS had incorporated into the Murphy Brown show back in 1992: "Look, I don't want to be the only square person here, but somebody's got to say it. I think Dan Quayle had a point."
You know it's not real. In real-life Steenburgen is a friend of President Clinton's.
-- Brent Baker