Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Desperately seeking controversy

Now that the election is over, and the red state vs. blue state feud over so-called 'moral values' has been established, are people so desperate to pick a fight that they're taking a trivial issue like the 'Monday Night Football' opening and making much too big a deal of it?

So here's the story: ABC ran a pre-taped segment which depicted Nicollette Sheridan's slutty character from "Desperate Housewives" wearing nothing but a towel and seducing Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Terrell Owens in a locker room before a football game. She drops the towel (exposing - cover your eyes - her naked back!), Owens says 'Hell yeah" (or something along those lines) and decides to skip the game, she jumps into his arms, and... well, I assume a touchdown was scored somewhere.

Kind of clever, kind of funny, especially for a program that emphasizes entertainment and wants to attract more than the typical football fan. But was it too bawdy for a prime-time sports broadcast? Apparently, some prudes think so and flooded ABC with letters, e-mails, and phone calls to express their displeasure. But this just isn't being discussed on ESPN and sports-talk radio now; the regular media is picking this up too.

The most ridiculous quote? Michael Powell, the president of FCC, was interviewed on CNBC and wondered if "Walt Disney would be proud" of this. (ABC is part of the Disney company, if you didn't know.)

The funniest thing about all this? This supposedly controversial segment - so "inappropriate," so "disgraceful" - is being replayed ENDLESSLY all over TV (network morning shows, cable talk shows) right now. So for all those crying that their children shouldn't have seen it, they've probably seen it again on another channel - and again.

The next funniest thing? The National Football League - the same NFL that signs off on numerous beer (with those TWINS!) and boner drug ads flooding its telecasts - is righteously indignant with ABC for allowing another Janet Jackson-esque incident to pollute its product. Never mind that the NFL seems fine with the same TV coverage ogling the skimpily clad cheerleaders on the sidelines before every other commercial break.

Meanwhile, ABC is apologetic - at least in public. Privately, I imagine it's pretty damn happy with all the attention. Ratings for "Monday Night Football" and "Desperate Housewives" will surely be helped.

One more thing, and this is a much uglier debate than whether or not we’re too Puritan as a society these days: On his national ESPN Radio show, Colin Cowherd suggested that there’s a racist undertone to much of this uproar. A white woman jumping into a black man’s arms on TV might’ve ruffled some unenlightened feathers. I don’t know if I completely agree with that, but Cowherd insists many of the e-mails he received on the subject prove otherwise. I’ll take his word for it, but I hope he’s wrong. I’d much rather make fun of prudes than shake my head at racists.