Ah, Springtime! The time when a man's fancy turns to romance, courtship, and finally being able to see women's boobs after months of having them hidden under heavy wool coats.
No, seriously, we all know by now that Springtime is the time of fertility. The whole Easter thing? Much of the Passover thing? Definitely the Cinco de Mayo thing. Beyond the historical significance of the major rites of spring, there's, well, eggs and alcohol; what better symbols of the perpetuation of the species? And, if you're Christian, there's also chocolate and ham, which definitely gets me in the mood, though you don't want to ever combine them in ice cream.
Regardless, the weather's warming up, Valentine's Day is far enough in the past that the single people are no longer angry and bitter, and it's not yet so hot that leaving your office is like walking into a wall of wet heat. Basically, now's the best time to, as Power Station once said, "Get it on."
(At this point, those of you with gongs have 8 seconds to bang them. ... Okay, stop. That's just getting annoying.)
Which is why, I can only assume, every single sitcom I've seen in the last two weeks has found some way to work testicles into a conversation.
I'm not making this up. I'm pretty sure that all of the network censors got together back in March and said, "Okay, last year we let them get away with 'bullshit' on the 10:00 shows. How about this year, one character per episode on a 9:00 show can say 'balls' in reference to his testicles?" And everyone but ABC voted yes.
In the past few nights, I've been trying to catch up on some shows I'd recorded (I love my DVR). I'm not lying when I tell you that right now "The Rules of Engagement" is literally the third show in a row that I've watched where testicles were actually part of the plotline. (The other two, by the way, were "Scrubs" and "Two and a Half Men.")
Now, due to a little surgery some of you may remember me having in 2001, I might be a little uber-sensitive to the testicle references. But I don't think it's me, in this case. I'm not complaining, mind you; I find half of them pretty funny.
(Make that four shows. Sarah Chalke's character on "How I Met Your Mother" just said she knew a guy in med school who was "one ball away from getting walked." I'm not going to explain the setup for that one.)
Anyway, all this talk of testes got me thinking about a couple things: 1) Is it just me, or is the U.S. kinda nuts (get it?) when it comes to censorship? and 2) Is loosening the restrictions actually making TV better? (Don't worry; I'll explain both.)
As to point 1, what is going on with this double-standard? How is it that "Two and a Half Men" can do an entire episode in which one character actually dies during fellatio (I believe "lipstick on his dipstick" was mentioned) be totally okay to air, but less than five years ago the FCC goes crazy because Janet Jackson showed her boob? It's always fine to show—in ultra-high definition and slow motion—a bullet entering someone's brain, though, right?
I know I'm not the first to write about this sort of thing. Hell, I'm not even sure this is the first time I'm writing about it. But it still amazes me what gets on the air versus what doesn't.
Understand I'm not a prude, of course. I'm pretty liberal, as a matter of fact. Sure, I don't think children should be exposed to whatever children shouldn't be exposed to, but I also don't see how one envelope gets pushed while the other one gets sealed like the Mother's Day card I remembered to buy in advance this year.
As to point 2, again, I'm not a prude. I happen to think that this stuff is genuinely funny. My question was to whether it was actually funnier than the stuff that was on TV before the censors began easing restrictions.
And the answer's probably no. But I also don't think that the writers are feeling that the new stuff is funnier. I think they're testing the limits because they can. I know I would were I in their shoes. I'm sure no one out there is claiming that "Cheers" or "All in the Family" were any less funny (or edgy, for their time) because no character ever uttered the line "I wonder who was smoking Teddy's sausage." But I do appreciate that this year, someone did.
Actually, it turns out that's a fun game. Next time you're watching a current sitcom, say, "Til Death," and when Joy asks Eddie, "If I had gone through menopause, why would I still have tampons in the house?" try to substitute older TV characters saying it instead. In my head, my current favorites are Mork and Mindy. That would have been a weird episode.
(Also, picturing Wesley from "Mr. Belvedere" say "I liked everything but the part with my testicles" ("The Big Bang Theory") is pretty funny, too.)
Anyway, I don't necessarily think this is a bad thing. I've been of the mind for a while that the general American viewing public is way too skittish when it comes to sex, especially in comparison to how little people seem to mind violence. All in all, if someone were to ask me which I thought was more damaging to a kid, an image of a naked breast or an image of blood spreading through someone's shirt after he gets stabbed, I'd have to go with the blood. But apparently, the TV censors and that one old man in Florida who writes daily letters of complaint to the FCC don't see it that way.
So if this year it's suddenly in vogue to talk about testicles (it happened again, by the way - also on "'Til Death": "Then she pointed out that one of my nuggets was hanging out of my shorts."), I say good. Maybe it'll be easier, then, for a writer next year to get a word like "tits" on the air.
And if you can get the word on the air, maybe getting the image on the air (without a Congressional hearing about it) won't follow too far behind.
Though I'll be totally fine if no one ever shows balls in Prime Time. You gotta draw a line somewhere.
A native of Elkins Park, PA, Adam Kraemer spends way too much of his time repeating "K-R-A-E..." He moved to New York City in 1998 and earned Master's in Journalism at NYU; don't let his writing fool you. He feels he is best known for saying the things no one is thinking, but afterwards wish they had been. He spends his free time wondering where all his free time goes and why he can never come up with a decent kicker for the ends of his articles.
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5.12.08 @ 6:28a
HA! Leave it to boobs to write about balls on the tube.
5.12.08 @ 9:19a
I just get annoyed when there are too many balls gags in a row. I realize balls are funnier than hell (at least to males in the audience, apparently) and ovaries are not, but it seems like discrimination in an odd kind of supercilious way. Doncha know?
5.12.08 @ 10:06a
Sure, but to be fair, there are a lot more euphemisms for testicles.
dr. jay gross
5.12.08 @ 10:24p
Are ovaries sexy? Too hidden I guess.
I don't think I'd watch a show called, 'Two and a Half Women'....sounds a bit like Frankenstienian (sp) horrible.
I would get a DVR if I had the time to watch the shows I recorded. Too few choices anyway.
Psychologically, if everyone walked around nude, there wouldn't be anything to censor. When was the last time you saw one average human different physically than another average human?
In Western Europe they privately ask, "Why do those Yankees spend so much time on boobs and sex?" I think they are about 1000 years ahead of us.
5.13.08 @ 1:59p
I'm gonna have to disagree with you on the sitcoms thing. a) They're a great escape from the daily drudge. b) They tend to be a pretty good indicator of the popular ethos within the culture of any given generation since the advent of TV.
5.13.08 @ 2:35p
There are good sitcoms and terrible ones, just like good dramas and terrible ones -- I wouldn't avoid them entirely. The only ball joke I saw was the one on How I Met Your Mother. And it was hilarious. If the censors had nixed it, though, the show would have been just as funny. And that show's not for kids anyway -- does Two and a Half Men bill itself that way?
It's insane how much violence and torture porn there is on the average weeknight network show. Much more worrisome, as you say, than a stray nut joke.
5.13.08 @ 9:11p
I was laughing at Kathy Griffin the other night during a rerun of her stand-up routine "Allegedly". She recalled her VH1 red carpet affair and how she was given a large inventory of Nads to give to guests.
Yes, Nads the hair removal product.
But, the more she referenced it, "Okay, here's your Nads, move along" the funnier it became. So much greater in testicle innuendo promise than a simple kick in the groin sketch.
5.14.08 @ 5:08a
Thank God for Netflix. I don't dispute the joy of "ball" joke, I've laughed, but the truth is that of the last couple of years of sitcoms I have seen I don't find myself laughing. About the only sitcom-like show that got me to laugh in the last two years was Family Guy, And the laugh was at a testicle joke. Oh well.
5.14.08 @ 10:09a
There are a few gems on TV these days, in my opinion. I admit that I'll watch pretty much anything, but I'm not so brain dead that I can't separate the wheat from the chaff. "Two and a Half Men" - I've written about Chuck Lorre's shows before. So I also really like "Big Bang Theory" and it's on an upswing, too. "How I Met Your Mother" - cute, mostly, good cast, especially Neil Patrick Harris, who's hysterical. "Scrubs" - rumor has it that though it's the last season, they're really just moving networks. So who knows? I don't know that any of those four will ever reach the "classic" status of a "Cheers" or "M*A*S*H," but I can also pretty much guarantee that, unlike "The Class," they won't make you want to put a bullet into your frontal lobe.