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The cast of "Skins," an MTV show that lost advertisers thanks to the Parents Television Council
The cast of "Skins," an MTV show that lost advertisers thanks to the Parents Television Council

John Doyle: Television

The Parents Television Council hates it? I'm watching! Add to ...

Are you looking for a way to discover some interesting TV shows to watch? Do you need some kind of rough guide? I may have the answer. Bear with me to the end here.

Right now there's an interesting situation in the United States. You can be darn sure that President Barack Obama's approval ratings will have improved with the elimination of Osama bin Laden.

A victory in the war against terror, and so forth. But that's not the only thing that is going to shore up Obama's popularity. You see, the indecency war is still going on. And the other day, the Parents Television Council praised the Obama administration for "standing up for parents and families" by asking the U.S. Supreme Court to affirm the broadcast decency law.

It seems that broadcast decency rules in the United States have been a bit murky recently. Over the past few years, the Federal Communications Commission has levied both criticism and fines against certain broadcasters after a swear word was broadcast or a buttock was glimpsed on TV. The broadcasters, fed up, challenged the FCC. And several lower courts declined to uphold the FCC's power to fine broadcast licence holders for violating the broadcast decency law. Issues of freedom of expression were raised. One lower court complained that the FCC's enforcement of decency rules is "unconstitutionally vague and chilling."

There's a been a stalemate - the Parents Television Council wants broadcasters fined for airing what it deems unsuitable but the courts have been reluctant to back the FCC. Now Obama is asking for an affirmation of the old rules and regulations.

In not unrelated news out of Los Angeles, it seems that a TV show with the working title Good Christian Bitches will indeed appear on the ABC schedule when it's announced this month. But that won't be its name. It will have a less provocative title. The PTC called for its members "and concerned citizens" to take action against Disney-owned ABC by signing a petition to protest the offensive title of the pilot. This is no small deal. The PTC is relentless in attacking broadcasters that air material that bothers it. And it lets advertisers know its power.

When MTV aired an episode of Skins not long ago, PTC members were encouraged to boycott advertisers' products and indeed to go local and let the staff of any Taco Bell outlet know that the company was supporting a disgusting show. Taco Bell duly pulled its ads from Skins.

Every week I get statements from the Parents Television Council. It doesn't approve of this or that. After the Good Christian thing, it broadened its attack. In a statement it said: "Unfortunately, this show is just one example of a larger trend. ABC already pounced on another pilot titled Don't Trust the Bitch in Apartment 23. From Investigation Discovery's Who the [Bleep]Did I Marry? to CBS's $#*! My Dad Says, it's clear the pattern will continue unless Americans speak out and advertisers come to their senses." As far as the PTC is concerned, there is "a concerted effort to popularize profanity on network television."

Most recently, the PTC went after the NBC pilot The Playboy Club. (Take note that The Playboy Club has only been seen by a handful of TV execs so far. Not by the PTC.) The PTC condemned Comcast/NBC Universal for "its blatant attempt to obliterate any remaining standards of broadcast decency with its pilot The Playboy Club." The issue, it seems, is a rumour that the producers have asked all the actors to sign a nudity clause - that is, they can be asked to perform nude.

Now, call me crazy, but whatever shenanigans unfold on The Playboy Club on NBC, if it ever sees the light of day, are definitely not going to involve the entire cast swanning around as naked as the day they were born. Not going to happen.

Obviously what bothers the PTC is some potential glorification of Playboy magazine. Just as its real problem with Skins was the show's depiction of teenaged characters having sex, doing drugs, sometimes being naked and, usually, having terrible parents. Just as its problem with the Good Christian title is the feeling - without evidence - that Christians like themselves may be mocked.

The PTC has attacked Glee, Pretty Little Liars, Jersey Shore, 30 Rock and the animated comedy Family Guy, among others. What a list. Here's my idea - the list of shows condemned or criticized by the Parents Television Council is actually a handy guide to shows worth watching. You know it's going to be worth a look because the PTC hates it. Dead handy.

Bring on those Good Christians, whatever they're calling the show now. Something to look forward to. Let's make the indecency wars work for us.


House (Fox, Global, 8 p.m.) is about this: "When House and Wilson bet on a boxing match and disagree over the outcome, Wilson gives him exactly one day to pay up or prove him wrong. House presses the boxer for more information to help prove his case and ends up attempting to breathe new life into the losing fighter's career. Meanwhile, the team begins to suspect House may have another type of drug problem." The last bit - the drug problem thing - is surely the set-up for the season finale.

Check local listings.

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