An Independence Day Assortment

Submitted for your perusal: Snippets from the entertainment scene, suitable for reading while sunning at the beach, shading on the porch, waiting for the burgers to cook, or watching boxers eat one another.

-Those favoring a truly informative television ratings system have scored a victory - of sorts. Broadcasters (except, at this point, NBC) have agreed to rate programming for content. The letters S (sex), L (foul language), V (violence), and D (suggestive dialogue) will be applied to prime time shows when the networks, which rate their own fare, deem it necessary.

But it's a partial victory at best. Those letters will be used not as a replacement for but in conjunction with the current age-based ratings. For example, a "Seinfeld" episode including the usual quantity of raunchy sexual innuendo plus an obscenity or two presumably would be rated TV-PG-LD. In other words, the meaningful part of the rating - the content notation that tells you what's actually on the show - is preceded by NBC's opinion that the episode is perfectly acceptable for all save young children. Of course, sensible viewers of "Seinfeld," ABC's "Spin City," and other sex-obsessed sitcoms know this isn't the case.

So the problem with disingenuous ratings continues.

I suspect the industry is hanging on to age-based ratings in the hope that the audience, confronted with all those extra letters, will find the expanded system confusing - and meaningless. To give the public (in particular, parents) a simple yet comprehensive content system a la HBO is to allow the public to make judicious choices. That means making the decision to ban from the household certain programs. And that the industry won't allow.

-In the wake of the Southern Baptists' boycott, the Walt Disney Co. is backing down?a little. Its subsidiary Hollywood Records has pulled from stores the LP "The Great Milenko," by the Detroit rap duo Insane Clown Posse. According to the New York Post, the album "contains references to gang banging, murder and drug use [and] vulgar slang terms for various female body parts." Moreover, the group's web site "brag[s] about a [road] crew member named 'Billy Bill,' who was locked up after a concert in Los Angeles for beating up a kid at a fast-food restaurant... Their tour results: 12 fights, three arrests and $13,000 in property damage."

An anonymous source told the Post that Disney would release Insane Clown Posse from its contract. The group appears likely to sign with (surprise!) Interscope Records, whose toxic waste dump of a talent roster includes Marilyn Manson and Snoop Doggy Dogg.

-The June 28 issue of TV Guide offered the magazine's selections for television's "Hundred Greatest Episodes of All Time." A few choices were awfully PC: the great coming-out episode of "Ellen" was ranked #35, forty-five spots ahead of a wonderful black-and-white, documentary-style installment of "M*A*S*H." But something else stands out. The prominence on the list of such classic series as "I Love Lucy," "The Dick Van Dyke Show," and "The Honeymooners" demonstrates that in years past when supposedly artists struggled under the old so-called restrictions on creative freedom, they poured forth brilliantly entertaining and, yes, creative product.

-On June 20, Texas became the first state to prohibit public funds from being invested in companies producing music which, in the words of a New York Times article, "advocates... illegal drug use, degradation of women, [and] assault of police officers."

From predictable quarters comes now the boorish squealing of protests from the ACLU crowd. In this category is the comment of Cary Sherman, a vice president with the Recording Industry Association of America, who complains this is "a First Amendment issue." Mr. Sherman fails to grasp that the Founders not only did not envision the right to subsidized free speech, but probably would have shot anyone suggesting such nonsense on the grounds of terminal stupidity.

The concerns of Larry Keith, president of the Texas State Association of Fire Fighters, are perhaps more substantial, but equally irresponsible. Keith believes that pension "funds should invest in whatever make[s] them money." It's a sound business principle, but with its inherent limitations. Would Keith propose to swell his fund's coffers with profits from the drug trade? But that's illegal, dummy; this isn't. OK: What about from the sale of KKK memorabilia, then?

-A final item, for those of you who (like me) ponied up the dollars to watch that boxing buffet the other night. The Psychobabble of the Year Award must be given to ringside commentator Dr. Ferdie Pacheco, who witnessed the savagery, yet rather than label Mike Tyson the beast he is, could only mumble, time and again, that this was one "confused" individual. One wonders how Pacheco would describe Charles Manson. "Perplexed"?