• TV Writer: Sex on Sitcoms Not Gratuitous

    by  • January 15, 2014 • Broadcast Decency, Sex • 6 Comments

    TV today is infamous for its sex-slathered sitcoms, from Dads to Two and a Half Men. But during a recent Television Critics Association interview, one TV writer claimed that sex on sitcoms is not gratuitous. Girl Code

    Once upon a time, television’s prime-time situation comedies used to be about, well, comedy – humorous situations happening to characters in offbeat circumstances. From I Love Lucy to Mary Tyler Moore and beyond, such humor was a keynote of television comedy..

    No more. Today,  “comedy” largely consists of wall-to-wall crass, tasteless, and explicit remarks about sex and scatology. Consider the average episode of CBS’  Two and a Half Men, which features no genuine humor, but a seemingly endless parade of supposedly shocking details about the characters’ sexual escapades. Or this past fall’s premiere of  the same network’s new comedy, The Millers, in which a pair of elderly grandparents had a lengthy discussion about masturbation – after which, the episode was devoted to fart jokes about the grandmother. Or the most recent episode of Fox’s Dads, which featured references to semen.

    Today’s TV writers defend their lack of talent and inability to write genuine comedy by claiming that the current parade of tastelessness is proof of the more “adult” nature of television. In fact, there’s nothing “adult” about spewing endless sex and fart jokes. “Juvenile” and “adolescent” are far better words to describe today’s alleged “comedy” writing.

    During a recent Television Critics Association interview about her upcoming series Friends with Better Lives, Dana Klein (formerly writer/producer for Friends and the failed sitcom Kath and Kim) claimed that her show “would not be a running litany of sex jokes every week, that they would never do a sex joke just for the sake of a sex joke” – this, according to Deadline: Hollywood, despite the first episode featuring “a b*ll joke, d*** joke, b***job joke, another d*** joke, and so on” – in addition to scenes of a wife performing oral sex on her husband at a party, and a woman pumping her own breast while drinking alcohol. Klein claimed that all these scenes are “relatable,”  because “sex is a real part of adult life.”

    Amazingly, TV managed to tell funny stories about “adult life” for the better part of 50 years without a non-stop stream of borderline obscene remarks about characters’ genitals, sex lives, and bathroom habits.  Yet, today’s “writers” remain firmly convinced that their juvenile obsessions with sex and toilet humor are the very pinnacle of creativity.



    Christopher Gildemeister is the PTC’s Head of Research Operations. He began as an Entertainment Analyst at the PTC in 2005. From 2007-2016, he was Senior Writer/Editor, responsible for communicating the PTC’s message to the public through newsletters, columns, and the PTC Watchdog blog. Dr. Gildemeister holds a Ph.D. from The Catholic University of America.

    6 Responses to TV Writer: Sex on Sitcoms Not Gratuitous

    1. Ren
      January 20, 2014 at 10:56 am

      God, please protect the young souls who are being exposed to such impurities.

    2. Dana
      January 17, 2014 at 3:45 pm

      You have all read my mind. I agree with everything said here.

      Don’t you hate it when people tell you “Lighten up, it’s FUNNY!” in response to all this smut?

    3. Gary Lesser
      January 16, 2014 at 1:52 pm

      Great article. But to call it “juvenile” is, I think, the wrong word choice.
      The toilet humor jokes fall into that category, and are not so offensive.

      But the “cringe factor” really sets in when the sexually explicit “jokes” start….in prime time hours.
      And our children are watching…..

    4. technologywontsaveus
      January 16, 2014 at 11:43 am

      Funny how I simply typed “sitcom sex jokes” into google and found an article that is exactly one day old. Great mind think alike. I’m starting to realize that the sex stuff is very common on American sitcoms. I just watch mostly the 00s shows, few recent ones and only a couple of the 90s. Bill Lawrence’ Spin City (1996-2002) has tons of that stuff in it, too much, not that there isn’t other stuff but it’s very visible. I don’t know these old ones Eileen is talking about and I admit that I can laugh about some sex jokes but too much is too much, sexual wordplays and innuendos shouldn’t be the main ingredient of a so-called comedy show. Maybe that’s a reason why I don’t watch most of the new comedies, besides TBBT (but that’s in its 7th season), Parks and Recreation (also 6 years old and I think that’s proof that intelligent comedy is still existing) and Community is also very creative and tame enough.

      It’s the case with television content in general, that 50 years ago it was very tame and today you practically can show everything, from Dexter to Breaking Bad to Vampire Diaries to Two And A Half Men. There are no more limits anymore, except maybe the FCC regulations and of course in order to get money, the networks have to self censor their shows to please the advertisers. I don’t think it’s getting better and I rather watch older shows that rely on good acting and intelligent enough stories than simply doing sex jokes and ugly humour. Maybe a reason why I don’t enjoy most comedy films. It’s a good thing starting to think about what you are watching and what exactly it is you are laughing about, because just because this kind of comedy is there, it doesn’t have to be funny, I can laugh about many other things instead.

    5. Eileen
      January 15, 2014 at 4:18 pm

      I totally agree with this article! Me and all my friends speak about the trash on TV all the time. What has happened to creative writers who made us laugh with
      Such classic shows like Mary Tyler Moore & I Love Lucy, The Dick Van Dyke Show, Mork & Mindy, Happy Days and so on and on. I watch no sitcoms, I am so tired of the sex jokes & toilet jokes & bathroom scenes that are disgusting. I
      Truly believe that is why so many families look so forward to shows like The Voice & American Idol, because they can watch these shows as a family. I am
      Totally disgusted with CBS also.

      • Pernell Harrison
        January 17, 2014 at 3:01 am

        Me too. I never watch prime-time shows of today! Their shows are disgusting! I’m also disgusted to CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox, CW and MyNetworkTV! Glad that other networks provide family-friendly, classic shows that are on Me-TV and Antenna TV.

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