Should We Expect More Butts and Boobs on TV After Another FCC Fine Gets Tossed?


NYPD Blue, which ran on ABC from 1993 until 2005, is probably best remembered not as the home of Mark-Paul Gosselaar’s comeback, but as the primetime place where naked butts became common. Drop-the-towel scenes (pictured) were trademark teases, as were the glistening upper-body sex scenes that are now a staple of the non-HBO channels. Now, the networks’ right to show skin is expanding thanks to the original naked cops, with a federal appeals court waiving a $1.2 million fine by the FCC against Blue for a 2003 episode featuring “a seven-second shot of a woman’s naked buttocks and the side of one of her breasts as she prepared to take a shower.” Viva la side-boob!

Unfortunately for teenagers everywhere without access to the internet (?), experts say this isn’t going to change much, via the Wall Street Journal:

“Practically speaking, [the court’s decision] means probably nothing,” said Dennis Wharton, a spokesman for the National Association of Broadcasters. “Broadcasters have a relationship with our audiences where there’s an expectation that we will not push the envelope to the point where we gratuitously shock and offend the mores of the American people.”

But the crazies think we’re doomed:

The Parents Television Council, a TV watchdog group that had complained about the “NYPD Blue” episode to the FCC, said the decision would “only serve to embolden the networks to air even more graphic material.”

The case may very well make its way to the Supreme Court, where hopefully Scalia and crew will get to watch a lot of early Andy Sipowicz.

As for ABC’s moral case, it goes something like this:

During the scene, a young boy entered the bathroom and saw the woman, who was involved with his father. ABC argued the scene wasn’t indecent and helped show the awkwardness that can occur when parents divorce and change romantic partners.

So there.

FCC Loses Another Indecency Case
[WSJ via Gawker]

This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on January 5, 2011

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