After reading this piece you may be tempted to think that Bozell finally has lost his marbles, simply because what is presented just cannot be true. If you will trust me that everything I'm going to present you is very real, you may instead conclude it is La-La Land that has gone completely Ga-Ga.
Channel-surfing with your remote you've doubtlessly come across the E! cable network - and clicked right past, for good reason. E! is owned jointly by Disney, Comcast and Liberty Media, making you wonder where all the adult supervision went. With the exception of the original "Talk Soup" show with Greg Kinnear way back when, it's mindless junk, usually consisting of programs focused on the vacuum that is Hollywood, produced by people who are just as mindless, and designed for - well, that's the rub. It's directed at youngsters enthralled by all things Tinseltown, and that means it must be ever-edgier in order to retain the attention of a generation that has seen it all.
Meet "Dr. 90210," an E! series starring Beverly Hills plastic surgeon Dr. Robert Rey, a fussy young doctor with half-bleached hair who looks qualified to rebuild Ipods, not the human body. When the show was launched in 2004 it was fairly straightforward, with the usual cocktail of Beverly Hills plastic surgeries - tummy tucks and face lifts and breast implants/reductions.
Fans of the Discovery Health Channel and its attendant medical shows might defend these intimate procedures as having more than a cosmetic value given their ability to improve physical health, boost self-confidence and the like. But this isn't Discovery. This is E! "Dr. 90210" isn't aimed at sophisticated adults. As its TV-14 rating declares, it is deemed acceptable for eighth graders. And it's not about health. It's all about sex.
So what to offer the young ones (and the adults who refuse to leave childhood) with their insatiable appetites? You can imagine the production meetings. How about we find patients who are porn queens? No, we did that last month. OK, wait... wait... I got it! How 'bout we find patients who are teenagers themselves! Yeah, that's the ticket!
That's where they went, but soon that wasn't enough either. So lower and lower they plunged.
The other day the audience - do not lose sight that this show is deemed by E! to be acceptable for eighth graders- was treated to an episode titled "Sexual Healing," with three procedures featured. Calahan, a woman trying to enter the male world, had her breasts amputated. (How that's defined as "sexual healing" is anyone's guess.) A man named Mike had a genital wart removed, an underwhelming procedure that lasts about two minutes, but which also allowed E! to focus on Mike's happy promiscuity. "This is no wakeup call for me! I'm still going to lead a pretty promiscuous lifestyle. I waited a long time to have success!"
Then Sara came to the doctor seeking - are you ready, all you E! Channel kids? - a labia reduction. More sex talk: She thought her genital malformation might come from her promiscuity, but the doctor assured her it was genetic. But now, visuals! While much of the surgical procedure was blurred or pixilated, the portions of labia removed were proudly displayed on-screen in all their E! glory. And then more sex talk, with Sara's friend joking about putting the excised parts of Sara's genitals in a scrapbook or in a picture frame. Later in the episode, E! followed Sara to a "pleasure party" (and vibrator sale), showing a lubricant saleswoman telling Sara to "go into the bathroom and rub this on your clitoris...rub that on your clitoris...and tell us how you feel."
Earlier, there was a different episode about a couple where both the male and female had malformed genitals: Natalie needed a labia reduction, and Josh struggled with an overly large scrotum. Another scene even featured a former porn actress named Tabitha getting a fashionable new procedure - anal bleaching. "I'm addicted to anal bleaching!" she declared enthusiastically. I will save you the details of the visuals and the narrative. Just use your imagination, then accept that you're not even close, because your imagination can't match Hollywood's.
What compels anyone at this network, from the CEO to the lowliest of interns, to associate himself with this product? Just how proud of themselves are the sponsors, from Visa to Macy's to Fisher-Price, makers of babies' toys?
This isn't an industry that has lost its mind. It has lost its soul.