A news story caught my eye yesterday. Producer Steven Bochco is against a proposal to cut a 15-second sex scene from an episode of NYPD Blue to create a “clean version” of the show to air in other time zones.
The show will air in the Eastern and Pacific time zones with the scene intact. The concern lies in the Central and Mountain time zones, where everything airs one hour earlier. According to the Associated Press, Bochco calls this a “hysterical knee-jerk response” to Janet Jackson’s breast-bearing wardrobe malfunction at the Super Bowl.
A similar argument arose last week on NBC’s ER, when producers didn’t want to cut a scene that showed an elderly patients bare breasts while she was being treated in the emergency room. ER got around the problem not by cutting the scene as expected, but instead by simply blurring that portion of the image.
I’ve worked in television for a good while now. And I’m a decent fiction writer as well. So perhaps it wouldn’t be unreasonable for me to suggest that if the 15-second scene in question isn’t appropriate to air at 9pm, it’s probably at least bordering on not being appropriate at 10pm, either. Our kids don’t go to bed exactly at 9pm like they did on Leave it to Beaver these days. And anyone who has screened the show that can honestly believe that the scene can be cut without destroying the story has probably stumbled upon another important point: the sex scene isn’t really necessary.
There are plenty of ways to convey a sexual encounter without nudity or simulating the act itself. If the scene is being defended this vigorously by the producer, my guess, never having seen the show, is that it’s supposed to be intentionally provacative.
That’s not good television…that’s just shock value.