Today’s sitcoms: the vagina monologues

Isn’t it curious how you can say all kinds of S#*! on television that you still can’t say in print?
I’ve been wanting for several weeks now to comment on how raunchy the new sitcoms were this season. The pilot for 2 Broke Girls, for example, showed a customer in a restaurant snapping his fingers at a waitress (Kat Dennings) to get her attention. She walks up to him, snaps her fingers in his face and says, that sound “dries up my vagina.” There are references to “spank bank” in later episodes, as well as various colourful nicknames for penis and vagina.
On the mid-season ABC show Apartment 23, a young woman has sex with her roommates boyfriend on a birthday cake and complains later about getting “a lot of frosting in my crack.” Even relatively tame New Girl refers at least once an episode to its “douche bag jar.”
I wrote about this trend this week for The Canadian Press, suggesting, “Getting those lines in this column is still enough to give an editor pause.” True and, in fact, they were all taken out. CP stories appear all over the wire, are quickly picked up by on-line and print affiliates, and the agency must act responsibly when servicing readers of more family friendly publications.
Still, it’s curious that we can watch and hear all kinds of sex jokes each week on Two and a Half Men, Whitney or Mike & Molly and not even blink, yet the same jokes in your local newspaper are verboten. Does sexual content or language just have more of an impact in print? Has even broadcast TV become an anything goes zone?

Maybe its a generational thing. My 18-year-old son, who grew up with The Simpsons and, later, South Park, Family Guy and the animated, adolescent raunch of Seth Green’s Robot Chicken, simply laughs at these jokes. When I asked him if he was shocked or offended by anything he saw in the pilots of 2 Broke Girls or Apartment 23, he looked at me like I’d just ordered The Clapper, or left my turn indicator on for an hour.
Still, it doesn’t seem that long ago when I was at a TCA press tour in Los Angeles and critics went nuts because a child star in some forgotten sitcom uttered the phrase, “you suck!” That comedy probably launched before the advent of Sex and the City, which, I argue here, changed everything.
One interesting side note: ABC announced last week that the Bitch is back in Apartment 23–sort of. They reverted back to the original title Don’t Trust the B— in Apartment 23. As with last year’s S#*! My Dad Says, seems you can say all sort of s#*! on TV as long as you fudge it in the title. 

4 Responses to “Today’s sitcoms: the vagina monologues”

  1. That might be a real part of explaining the skyhigh ratings for Sports Programming. Watch any endless baseball game, Texas Hold’em poker event, or a Nascar race – no swearing, no flaunting, no dirty talk… guaranteed! Oh boy, a NFL cheerleader – big f’n deal, maybe for 1971 (and not even).
    The same goes for most of all those cable stations about food and DIY stuff.

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  2. Bill, nothing surprises me anymore. As an educator, I’m constantly hearing foul language in the halls of my school, innuendo, etc. It’s the culture in which we live, I suppose. Not that I subscribe to it. Our TV viewing includes a very short list. Certainly the slop produced these days is not on that list. In the end, we can do the simple thing and “click” the converter. The power remains to ignore the slop off whenever we wish, thankfully.

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  3. Thanks, Rock Golf, for sourcing “Uncle Buck” as the sitcom notorious for breaking the “You suck!” barrier. I remember the furor at press tour that summer with critics complaining to the producers that this language was unacceptable in a “family hour” sitcom (generally between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m.). I can’t believe that show premiered over 20 years ago, in 1990. Kevin Meaney played the role John Candy made famous in the John Hughes movie.

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