It’s not news that dramas on premium cable networks like HBO or Showtime – from the earliest days of The Hitchhiker to recent programs like Californication and Game of Thrones – feature nudity…LOTS of nudity. This is so true that one recent Hollywood representative went so far as to state that cable TV has a “mandate for nudity.”
Premium cable is one thing. To see such programs, viewers need not only to subscribe to cable or satellite TV, they must choose to pay an additional fee on top of the basic package, just for the privilege of seeing the shows they want. But basic cable – that received by everyone with a cable or other pay-TV subscription, and featuring channels like USA or Animal Planet – has largely been free of nudity.
Sadly, it was the previously highbrow and family-friendly Discovery Channel which began the trend last year, with its series Naked and Afraid. In this so-called “reality” program, two strangers (of the opposite sex, naturally) were marooned together on a deserted island or other harsh environment, where they had to fight to survive…without clothes. This unnecessarily prurient element detracted from the supposed purpose of the show, but did result in Discovery – perhaps in the first time in its existence – being perceived as “edgy,” the goal of all entertainment industry executives.
Not long thereafter, the former music network VH1 jumped on the bandwagon and announced it would air Naked Dating, a “provocative” show featuring a naked man and woman “stripped of their pretenses” at a “remote, exotic location.” Both contestants are urged to “date” multiple other nude people in every episode.
With Naked Dating on basic cable, the floodgates have opened. According to The Wrap, “broadcast and cable programming executives have [ said] they’re being flooded with pitches for naked dating shows…One executive told [said] he has already seen ‘a dozen naked dating pitches’ cross his desk this year.” And executives for the TLC network (already home to such programs as Sex Sent Me to the ER) told The Wrap they have received similar pitches, including a nude matchmaker show, and a show exploring nudist colonies.
Worst of all, the Fox broadcasting network (not Fox News) – which is not a cable or satellite network, but which uses the publicly-owned airwaves — is also considering a “naked dating” show, in which contestants would stand naked and choose each other to go on dates. No doubt Fox would schedule this program to run immediately after the family hit American Idol, as they did with the execrable The Moment of Truth some years ago.
Needless to say, this is not a development to which most families would subscribe. Nobody in the TV viewing audience is crying out for dozens of shows featuring nudity. (Those few who do want it presumably already subscribe to the Playboy Channel or a similar network.)
Yet as always, the media will have its way. Fox broadcasting could be in serious legal trouble if they go ahead with their show; broadcasters are specifically banned from showing “sexual or excretory” content during the daytime and prime-time hours. On basic cable, there are no such legal barriers…and unfortunately, cable and satellite subscribers can be (and currently are) forced to subsidize hundreds of programs on dozens of channels they never watch, don’t want, and find offensive. Leave it to VH1 and the other cable networks to force still more on the viewing public.