While flipping channels on Sunday afternoon, I came across what appeared to be a young Brad Pitt. Not being immediately familiar with the movie, I stuck around for a few minutes to try to determine what it was.
In those 10 minutes or so, Pitt's character had a violent battle with another character - a bad guy played by Donovan Leitch - in some sort of factory. Leitch ended up putting Pitt's head in a vise and aiming an enormous electric drill at him.The bad guy then tried to rape the young woman (Jill Schoelen) who was with Pitt. She ended up driving some sort of large hammer through his skull, then pushing him back against some factory machinery, causing blood to cascade from his torso.
And - unbelievably - all of this was happening on a Sunday afternoon on KUTV-Ch. 2.
That's right. We're not talking HBO or Showtime or some other pay-cable channel, we're talking a local broadcast station.
And the movie, which turned out to be the 1989 horror flick "Cutting Class," aired from 1-3 p.m. on Sunday - a time when any number of young children have access to the television.
There's no excuse for this. This is simply irresponsible behavior on the part of the broadcaster.
Not that Ch. 2 is alone in this. All the local stations have made similar mistakes.
Some years ago, KTVX-Ch. 4 aired the 1981 Bo Derek vehicle "Tarzan the Ape Man" - complete with frontal nudity - at 10:30 p.m. on a Saturday night.
KSL-Ch. 5 has been known to air movies like "Mike's Murder" and "The Two Jakes" late Saturday nights. KJZZ-Ch. 14 airs violent horror movies with some frequency, including "The Shining" in prime time just a couple of weeks ago.
Even though the movies have been edited for television, they're still violent. And many of them have strong sexual content.
In the case of "Cutting Class," perhaps the station wasn't getting the edited version that it was promised. (That would certainly seem to have been the case with "Tarzan the Ape Man.")
But is that an excuse for not having someone at the station preview a movie before it's broadcast? Certainly not.
There's been no small degree of publicity about the violent content of prime-time network programming, like Fox's "Millennium" and "The X-Files," including right here in this column. These shows, which air at 8 p.m. on Friday and Sunday, respectively, are not appropriate for children.
But parents cannot relax about what's on television at any time of the day - not when local stations are putting violent, gory fare on in the middle of a Sunday afternoon.
Broadcasters deserve any criticism they get for airing violent fare like "Cutting Class" on a Sunday afternoon. But the ultimate responsibility lies with the parents, who need to be vigilant about what their kids are watching seven days a week, 24 hours a day.
VIDBITS: O.J. Simpson defense attorney Johnny Cochran will be co-hosting a weeknight show on cable's Court TV beginning in January.
Cochran will team with Atlanta prosecutor Nancy Grace for "Cochran & Grace," which will "analyze and debate not only the day's top legal stories, but also the wider social and political implications."
Well, this news should make those of us who don't get Court TV on our cable systems grateful.
- Standup comedian Chris Rock - a past "Saturday Night Live" cast member - will host a late-night talk show on HBO next year.
It's set to launch in February, and the pay-cable service has ordered a whopping five weekly episodes - not that there's any pressure or anything.
- The awful sitcom "Party Girl," which Fox sent on hiatus and promised to bring back at a later date, might be done for.
The production company, Warner Bros. Television, has shut down production on the show.
- Ex-KUTV staffer Deborah Hamberlin has been promoted to vice president of media, production service and affiliate promotion at NBC. She's been vice president of affiliate advertising and promotion services at the network since 1992, and has been given additional responsibilities.
The charming and capable Hamberlin is a Utah native and graduate of the University of Utah.
- UPN has ordered additional episodes of "The Burning Zone," upping the order to a full season of 22 installments.
One thing we know for certain - the decision was not based on the quality of the show.
- So, the Miss America pageant is moving from NBC to ABC in the fall - largely because NBC didn't want it anymore.
I'm trying to care, but I just can't work up that much enthusiasm.
- Cable's USA Network has bought the rights to air reruns of the Fox series "New York Undercover," beginning in 1998.
The fact is, however, that "Undercover" is produced by Universal - which owns half of USA.
NBC tops ratings
NEW YORK (AP) - In a tumultuous weekly ratings race that has seen four TV networks win at least once this season, NBC has re-established its dominance with its powerhouse Thursday lineup.
NBC had the top six shows, five of them on Thursday night, and scored an 11.2 rating and 18 share for the week, Nielsen Media Research said. Second-place CBS had a 9.8/16, narrowly outpointing ABC's 9.7/16.
NBC's win takes on added importance since it came during the critical November "sweeps," which networks use to set advertising rates over the coming months.
Tuesday night's schedule was wiped out for the top three networks due to election night coverage. But Fox's effort to counter-program the election returns fell flat: The movie, "Beethoven," finished in 56th place for the week.
Fox finished in fourth place for the week with an 8.2 rating and 13 share.
Among the emerging networks, UPN scored a 4.0 rating and 6 share, and the WB had a 2.9 rating and 4 share.
A rating point represents 970,000 households, or 1 percent of the nation's estimated 97 million TV homes. The share is the percentage of televisions in use and tuned to a show during a specified time period.
For the week of Nov. 4-10, the top 10 shows, their networks and ratings were:
"ER," NBC, 24.9; "Seinfeld," NBC, 21.6; "Suddenly Susan," NBC, 19.2; "Friends," NBC, 18.0; "Single Guy," NBC, 16.1; "Pandora's Clock," Part 1, NBC, 16.1; "Monday Night Football," ABC, 15.9; "Touched By an Angel," CBS, 15.2; "60 Minutes," CBS, 13.8; "Cosby," CBS, 13.2.