Thursday, February 14, 2008

Who Does The PTC Hate THIS Week – February 14, 2008

Light week from the PTC but as you can see below there's something they're going to be upset with next week. On the personal front, my mom got out of the hospital today. She's looking forward to having something good to eat. She forgets that I'm doing the cooking.

This doesn't happen often but I now have a chance to scoop the PTC! On the Thursday February 14th episode of the Today Show Jane Fonda was discussing her role in The Vagina Monologues and how she had initially resisted taking the role when she said "the c-word" according to TVNewser, which has the NSFW clip on this page. For the sake of clarity I will use the word restricted from old comic books for resembling the word in question – squint at your own risk. Speaking with Meredith Viera Fonda said, "I hadn't seen the play — I live in Georgia. Then I was asked to do a monologue called 'CLINT', and I said, 'I don't think so. I've got enough problems.'" Viera later apologised saying, "Before we go to break, in our last half hour we were talking about The Vagina Monologues and Jane Fonda inadvertently said a word from the play that you don't say on television. It was a slip, and obviously, she apologizes and so do we. We would do nothing to offend the audience, so please accept that apology." The Midwest and Pacific feeds of the show had the word replaced with silence and a photograph placed on screen when Fonda says the word so that lip readers won't be offended. The apology is retained.

What is it with these relatively hot post-menopausal actresses on morning shows?! First we had 62 year-old Dianne Keaton dropping the F-Bomb on Good Morning America and then we have 70 year-old Jane Fonda saying "CLINT." What's next, Sally Field going on The Early Show on CBS and mentioning the product of bowel movements? Anyway, you know that the PTC is going to be over this one like white on rice – they wanted NBC fined when Helen Mirren said she nearly fell "tits over ass" trying to make it up the stairs at the 2006 Emmys – but it's another case of those pesky fleeting obscenities on live broadcasts. So naturally they'll complain about the Second Circuit Court and how the FCC needs to press the appeal to the Supreme Court and Congress need to pass a no hope bill that will give the FCC the power to fine anything it wants to just so long as they can justify it by calling it obscene. But that's just my guess.

The PTC has determined that the January 29th episode of House M.D. is the Broadcast Worst Show of the Week. According to the PTC (adding TV critic to the group's resume): "House, M.D. has always contained graphic imagery and sexual dialogue, but the program also featured suspenseful storylines and witty banter, which gave the show its appeal. Now in its fourth season, the series has become stale and formulaic, and thus increasingly more dependent on sexual themes and gore." Funny that no one else has mentioned that the show has become "stale and formulaic." I mean most episodes tend to follow a pretty basic formula – thereby making it "formulaic" I suppose – but stale? Never! The problem that the PTC complains about in this episode is there are two storylines in this episode, "both involving promiscuous women." Ah, but it's more than that really, it's that the two women are fairly open about it...or are they. The first storyline involves a single woman who has had a double mastectomy, despite not having breast cancer, because of a genetic predisposition to the disease. She is also completely open and truthful with her daughter, about everything (well not quite everything which is a major plot point in the episode but doesn't affect what the PTC has to say about the episode), including sex. Here's what the PTC has to say about this part of the episode: "The mother openly sleeps with several partners and shares that aspect of her life with her daughter. As Dr. House attempts to diagnosis the woman's illness, he sits down with the young girl and asks her to describe her mother's sex practices. He asks the eleven-year-old, 'Saddle, bronc, or doggy… that's sex talk.' As if the question wasn't horrible enough, the writers have the girl respond, 'She used to like to be on top. Now she likes to be on her stomach. That way she doesn't have to see them looking at her scars.'" As I mentioned, the woman (played by the beloved by this blog Janel Maloney) is totally open and truthful to her daughter about all aspects of her life (well as I said, almost all aspects). The PTC is almost as scandalized by the young actress played the daughter and being "forced" to be exposed to such "offensive" material: "Leaving TV fantasyland one has to acknowledge that in filming this episode, an actual little girl was exchanging graphic dialogue with an adult man about sexual positions. Is this really acceptable?" I suppose that for the PTC this is graphic. This plot concludes when House discovers that while the woman has had a double mastectomy she still has breast cancer. There's a complicated explanation but the short reason is that she has breast tissue on the back of one knee. In what is a frankly gross scene, House syringes some milk from that tissue and shoots it into the mouth of the daughter. As I said it is a pretty gross moment, but that is also the reaction of everyone in the roof including the House's three new fellows.

The other storyline involves a young woman who is a patient at the Clinic who is being treated by House for a rash. If you watched the episode, you'll know that House assumes that the young woman is a prostitute because she is wearing a St. Nicholas Medal, and St. Nicholas is the patron saint of prostitutes (he is also the patron saint of "Children, sailors, fishermen, the falsely accused, pawnbrokers, and repentant thieves"). Actually he "logically" deduces this by eliminating the categories she doesn't fit. As I recall the scene the woman doesn't confirm or deny his assumption but undeniably does flirt with him. From this, the PTC also assumes that she's a prostitute; she is the other promiscuous woman of the PTC's introductory paragraph. Well here's what the PTC says about that plot: In the second plot, another woman is an implied prostitute who comes to see Dr. House for a rash on her neck and chest. As House probes her symptoms, he asks her if she has had contact with a donkey, engaging in a line of questioning that would lead one to believe she performs in a sex show involving animals.

House: 'Do you do a donkey show? I'm not curious. It matters.'
Woman: 'It's a donkey or a mule. I can never remember.'

House: 'Wow that's a creepy smile. I bet the donkey's is even creepier... Antibiotic cream for you and a love glove for Francis. You'll both be fine.'

Woman: 'You should come see the show. I think you'd like it.'

House: 'Sorry, I hate Westerns.'"

So here we have a young woman who House assumes is a prostitute and who the PTC states at the beginning of the article is one of two "promiscuous women." To be fair, the PTC does mention that "She does nothing during the conversation to dispel Dr. House's assumption that she performs a sex act on the donkey," (emphasis mine), and it is revealed at the end of the episode (when House goes to see her show – she gave him a handbill which presumably revealed to him if not to us what she was really doing) that she is in fact playing the Virgin Mary in a Christmas pageant. The woman is flirtatious rather than promiscuous, although one suspects that the PTC finds the two states to be close enough not to matter. Maybe this helps explain why their conclusion for this episode is uncharacteristically weak for the PTC: "The graphic sexual dialogue and themes make this episode inappropriate for prime-time television, and earns House the distinction of being Worst of the Week."

The Cable Worst of the "Week" is the same episode of Nip/Tuck that has topped the PTC's charts for three or four weeks now, and the Misrated show is the same episode of Cashmere Mafia as last week. That leads us to the PTC's TV Trends column titled "TV Writers On Strike But Sex Continues" and I personally find it to be a rather weak effort as well. The basic premise of the article is summed up in the introduction: "As the TV writers' strike drags on, prime-time broadcast TV becomes ever more mired in an endless cycle of reruns and "reality" shows. When the strike began the networks held back a few episodes of their programs, and some are showing them now. Others had programs that were always intended to premiere at midseason, and some such shows are now being aired. Unfortunately, the programming appearing in the last week is not substantially different from that which has gone before." Pretty wimpy right? The article then gets down to examples, of which they can come up with two. The PTC's obsession with NBC's supposed obsession with strippers and "the nearly full-frontal nudity of a later Las Vegas episode"
(the scene in the strip club where the entirely overdressed stripper lifts her top so two patrons who are betting on the colour of her nipples – but not the audience at home – can settle the bet; this is hardly "nearly full-frontal nudity") continues. This time they picked on Friday Night Lights which had a scene in which Riggins takes Matt Saracen to the town strip club on a Wednesday afternoon. The PTC has considerable praise for the show saying, "Friday Night Lights has been lauded for its positive portrayal of a small-town high school football team. Unlike programs like the CW's Gossip Girl, which features ultra-wealthy teens hopping from bed to bed and using drugs, Friday Night Lights portrays its teenagers and their families in a genuine fashion, with its characters confronting realistic problems – and facing realistic consequences for bad decisions." In the episode Riggins takes an emotionally fragile Saracen to the local strip club (because it's Wednesday and Riggins always skips on Wednesdays). Believe it or not, this is an important scene and not just a reason to show strippers – who by the way are wearing even more than the strippers that the PTC was complaining about on Las Vegas. Matt is in emotionally bad shape, feeling that everyone who means something to him abandons him, but it's something that Riggins isn't aware of. The PTC doesn't even get that. Here's what they write: "While some teens certainly drink, and some may visit strip clubs, it is a sign of the coarsening of TV (and the increasing acceptability among entertainment industry insiders) that the program felt it necessary to include such material. Given the obsession with strip clubs seen across the NBC network, the inclusion of this scene could very well have been intended to 'spice up' a heretofore down-to-earth program. One can only hope that the program retains its more realistic focus and does not succumb to NBC's apparent desire to feature strippers on as many shows as possible." See what I mean about "not getting it?" Everything to them is gratuitous, and represents a "coarsening of TV."

The other show that they discuss in this article is the same episode of House that was mentioned earlier in this piece. There are a couple of additional comments that the writer of this article adds in. First about the daughter knowing about her mother's preference in sexual positions: "The idea of an eleven-year-old girl being privy to the intimate details of her mother's sex life is more than a little disturbing, but is typical of House." Yeah, I know, it's the same old ground and who cares about characterization? But what gets me is that this writer considers the secondary plot, with the woman at the clinic, "far worse." After describing the setup to the scene they say, "House responds with his typically brusque and graphic manner, deducing that the woman is a prostitute, and furthermore that she has sex with animals." They make sure to repeat the dialogue of the scene, presumably to show how "shocking" it is and then adds, "Most people wouldn't find bestiality a subject for humorous banter with their physician. But then, most people don't have lives that resemble the programming on Fox." But here's the amazing part; somehow it isn't the fairly mild discussion of possible involvement between the woman and the Donkey that offends the PTC, it's this: "As a final fillip, House later sees the woman at a church play, where she is portraying the Virgin Mary…riding a donkey. Even more offensive, if possible, is the fact that this episode was clearly intended to air at Christmas, but was delayed by Fox because of the writer's strike." Excuse me, but even more offensive? I'm afraid I don't know where "offensive" registers on this one. Does the "fact" that it was supposedly meant to air at Christmas make it offensive? Is it the fact that a supposed prostitute is playing Mary? I saw the scenes in question and I saw them not as offensive – certainly not on the young woman's part – but more as playful banter and maybe just a bit of role-playing on her part that ends just as soon as House is given the flier for the show that she's doing.

Here's the PTC's conclusion (with one bit of correction by me). "The strike continues [not anymore it doesn't]…but the effects of Hollywood's writers and their love of extreme sex, violence, profanity and irreverence continue to be seen on all our television screens. Lucky us." Yes indeed, lucky you PTC, because if they didn't engage in what few people outside of your organization consider "extreme sex, violence, profanity and irreverence" you'd have to find something real to do, either as jobs or an avocation.

Update: Did I call it or what. While I was writing this...well actually while I was napping during writing this the PTC put up a press release on the Jane Fonda incident on the Today Show. I said that "naturally they'll complain about the Second Circuit Court and how the FCC needs to press the appeal to the Supreme Court and Congress need to pass a no hope bill that will give the FCC the power to fine anything it wants to just so long as they can justify it by calling it obscene," and sure enough, here it is:

We also ask the two federal court judges in New York whether they are proud of the legacy they have ensured for themselves by paving the way for material like this to come into our homes. Hopefully American families will not let them have the final word, and that the Congress will move quickly to vote on the bill pending before the Senate which would clarify the FCC’s authority to deal with this growing problem.

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