Shameful behavior in the world of television takes on many forms and happens so often that you become kind of numb to it. But a couple of recent developments tied to shows about very different families have me rolling my eyes in disgust.
Late last week, KSL-TV, an NBC affiliate in Salt Lake City, decided to ban from its airwaves "The New Normal," an upcoming fall comedy from Ryan Murphy ("Glee") about a gay couple trying to have a baby via a surrogate mother.
Meanwhile, the programmers at TLC continue to send out gushy press releases touting robust ratings for "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo," an appallingly awful, satire-free reality series that follows a chubby little pageant princess and her self-described
How crazy? Well, they eat roadkill, allow their pet pig to defecate on the dining-room table, spew twangy gibberish that requires subtitles, belly flop in the mud and belch and pass gas a lot.
If that's "normal," you can have it.
The situation in Utah is yet another form of censorship in which an out-of-touch entity has denied viewers the chance to decide for themselves what they deem to be acceptable entertainment. "For our brand, this program simply feels inappropriate on several dimensions, especially during family viewing time," Jeff Simpson, a bigwig with KSL's parent company, told the Deseret News in Salt Lake City.
Apparently, this Mr. Clueless is unaware that Americans have embraced gay
"The New Normal," which includes an Archie Bunker-like character (Ellen Barkin) who spews plenty of vocal bigotry, just might spark discussion or even change some views. But KSL-TV, clearly fearful of such things, wants us to believe that it knows what's best for everybody in its audience. And in doing so, it is robbing them of a basic television right: to vote with their remote.
That said, it would be hypocritical of me to slam the more than 2 million who have voted in favor of "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" and its highly caffeinated 6-year-old star, Alana Thompson. Hey, if you need a Southern-fried train wreck to get you through the week, that's between you, your therapist and your DVR.
But that doesn't mean we can't cast a judgmental eye at TLC for making a utter disgrace of itself as it goes after ratings like an ambulance-chasing shyster. TLC, which long ago abandoned any commitment to "learning," has essentially turned its channel into a zoo, where viewers come to gleefully gawk at -- and mock -- alien beings and maybe experience a smug sense of superiority while they're at it.
There's no skill in that. Or craft. Or class. It's just disturbing, noxious and even exploitive.
And so the last thing TLC execs should be doing is hyping its Nielsen success. No, what they should be doing is lying low -- knowing they pulled another fast one on the American public -- and hiding their faces in shame.
THE DWIGHT MOVE?: Speaking of bad TV ideas, we are really wary of NBC's plans to do a spin-off of "The Office" pegged to Dwight Schrute. The potential sitcom would focus on the bizarre character played by Rainn Wilson and life with his quirky family at their beet farm.
As previously announced, "The Office" will end after the upcoming season, its ninth. That's a plan we can support. As much as we loved this show in its heyday, it has lost a lot of steam in recent years and was becoming much easier to ignore.
But a Dwight-centric spin-off seems like an attempt to milk a dead cow. Dwight is a fantastic supporting character, and his strange antics have always been best in small doses. Moreover, the farm scenes over the years usually missed more than they hit.
Maybe NBC should just mercy-kill this plan and shove it in the freezer -- the way Dwight did Angela's cat.
BREAKING AWAY: Once again, "Breaking Bad" has ranked among the very best things TV has to offer. That's why it pains us to have to part with the blistering drama when it ends its eight-episode summer run on Sunday (10 p.m., AMC).
Yes, we've had to put up with some wild improbabilities this season -- the giant magnet truck, the great train robbery -- but it has been absolutely riveting to watch Walter White (Bryan Cranston) go completely off the rails, driven by pride, ego and past slights. (And, yes, Walt, you do indeed have a spot reserved in hell.)
We also continue to be amazed by the marvelous work of Anna Gunn, as the numb-to-the-world Skyler White, and by the sad journey of Mike, the stoic thug played by Jonathan Banks.
Next year's farewell episodes can't come soon enough.
Contact Chuck Barney at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his TV blog at http://blogs.mercurynews.com/aei/category/tv, and follow him at Twitter.com/chuckbarney and Facebook.com/BayAreaNewsGroup.ChuckBarney.
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