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TV: Pushing the limits at all hours

Sunday, October 29, 2000

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

Let's face it, TV gets blamed for all the world's sins. Movies may be more violent, but TV gets slammed because ads for those rough flicks air during programs that appeal to kids and teens. Where the family hour (8 p.m.) once protected children from sex talk, innuendo is now commonplace. When those programs are sold into syndication, the reruns air even earlier.

We'd need a small army to monitor every minute of every TV/cable show on any given day in entertainment, so we did what teen-age viewers do: We went channel-surfing Tuesday, frequently checking in on the top-rated programs for children 12 to 17 as measured by Nielsen Media Research.

What we found:

At 9 a.m. on WPGH, "The Jerry Springer Show" featured profanity (some of it bleeped), fights among guests and accusations of sexual impropriety. "I want to tell her I been screwing her old man ... because you screwed every man I ever had, bitch," one woman said to her sister in a show titled "Honey, I Have a Mistress."

Other daytime talk show topics included talented young people ("Maury Povich," 10 a.m., WTAE), students abused by their teachers ("Montel Williams," 10 a.m., WPXI), fertility ("The View," WTAE, 11 a.m.), breaking bonds ("Dr. Laura," 11 a.m., WPXI) and drug-abusing teens ("Ricki Lake," noon, WPGH).

NBC's "Passions," a supernatural soap airing at 2 p.m., is rated TV-14 and has a sizable teen audience. Tuesday's installment featured a teen-age girl looking into a magic mirror where she saw herself on a bed, undressing a teen-age boy. "Me and Miguel in a bed making love, it's what I've always dreamed of," she said.

MTV's weekday videofest, "Total Request Live" (3:30 p.m.), is rated TV-PG. Although music videos frequently come under fire for sex, violence and profanity, these were tame. Sexy dancing in Christina Aguilera's "Come On Over, Baby" and Ricky Martin's "She Bangs," and bleeped profanity in Limp Bizkit's "Rolling" were pretty much all there was to report. Curiously, for the second day in a row, an Eminem video ("The Way I Am") ranked No. 9, but it was the only video in the Top 10 not played. As an aside, the stars of the new film "Charlie's Angels" visited the Times Square studio wearing T-shirts that read, "I won't vote for a son of a Bush."

USA's "Friends or Lovers" (5 p.m.) featured people in their late teens or early 20s confessing sexual indiscretions and choosing whether to take a friend or lover on vacation. One guy revealed to his girlfriend that he had slept with a stripper.

"Friends," an NBC mainstay in prime time, airs in reruns weekdays at 7 p.m. on WCWB. A flashback included scenes of Ross and Rachel snuggling after sex and a premature ejaculation joke.

In addition to the parental guideline ratings, The WB broadcasts advisories prior to "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" (TV-PG, language, violence) and "Angel" (TV-14, innuendo, language, violence) that advise, "Tonight's WB presentation is intended for our teen and adult viewers." "Buffy" (8 p.m.) contained violent hand-to-hand combat scenes, mild profanity and the staking of a vampire. "Angel" (9 p.m.) included similar fight scenes and vampire lust.

On ABC's family comedy "The Geena Davis Show" (rated TV-PG for innuendo and language, 9:30 p.m.), Davis baked a cake for the son of her live-in lover. The cake was shaped like male genitalia.

You can't watch TV without watching commercials. One of note: MTV's "Total Request Live" included a commercial for the R-rated film "Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2." The same "Blair Witch 2" commercial aired during "Buffy."

During a 6 p.m. rerun of "The Drew Carey Show" on WPGH, a commercial for the TV-14-rated Fox drama "The $treet" was broadcast. A man in an elevator, standing behind a beautiful woman, says, "This elevator's not the only thing that's going up."

Note: "That '70s Show" and "Titus," two Fox comedies popular with teen-agers according to Nielsen, did not air due to baseball.

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