Lots Of Sex On TV, But Who's Watching?

Just in case you didn't know--there's a lot of sex on network TV, much more than seven years ago. But factor in this: Since that time, there are fewer viewers watching network TV.

The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, which sponsored the study, yesterday said that now in seven of 10 episodes of TV shows, there was some kind of sex-related content--double the number since 1998.

Now even family-friendly advertising shows have lots of sex-stuff as well. In the special study, "Gilmore Girls" was used as an example. In one scene Lorelai Gilmore wonders why her daughter, Rory, isn't angry after they spot Rory's boyfriend kissing another woman on the neck in public. "Aren't you guys sleeping together?" Lorelai asks. Rory isn't concerned: "It's good to just keep things casual."



Meanwhile, the Federal Communications Commission noted that indecency complaints quadrupled in the third quarter. So at this pace, by next year, virtually all scenes on TV shows will be about sex--which won't be good news for TV ratings.

Most of the Kaiser study focuses on network television--which brings up an interesting parallel that perhaps the study hadn't thought of: In those eight years that the number of sex scenes has gone up, network ratings have gone down.

All that says is people are bored with sex-related content. Perhaps there is too much attention to all this. Many sex-themed shows, such as NBC's "Coupling" of a few years ago, failed. One can't believe TV executive producers and writers' main goals are only in figuring out about how to add more sex-related content to TV shows--that would be suicidal.

And boring. Years ago, during a visit to the MIPCOM television market in Cannes, France, an American TV executive told me he decided to take his 12-year-old son to the beach, where there is a European tradition of topless women. On the first day, the son was shocked: "Dad, look at that!" On the second day, the son was somewhat more muted: "Dad, see that." On the third day, the son barely noticed. "Dad, let's get a latte."

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