If there is any outrage expressed over KSL's decision this week to not air NBC's outrageously filthy new sitcom, "Coupling," it should be directed at the fact more stations aren't doing the same thing. So far, only one other station, in South Bend, Ind., has also decided to pass.
That may be the most disturbing message of all.
If the television industry is ever going to veer back toward family-friendly programming, it will be because viewers and television stations decide to take a stand. KSL did so this week, and it ought to be commended. This wasn't an easy step to take. The show is set to premier this Thursday. The network has been heavily promoting it. Advertising revenue will be lost. But that will be compensated by a sense of respect for a station that obviously cares about its viewers.
"Coupling" is a sitcom based on — surprise! — sex. Network programmers seem absolutely fixated by that topic, as if they are incapable of finding anything clever, entertaining or provocative that revolves around any other subject. In this case, the language and subject matter go to lengths not previously seen in prime time. And so, the proverbial envelope gets pushed once again, and America's families get stuffed.
NBC Entertainment president Jeff Zucker said the American public is ready for "Coupling," given the programming on cable and network television during the past decade. Sadly, we are inclined to agree with him. But that is a downward progression for which he and other television executives are responsible.
Given the obvious trend line here, one can only shudder at what might be next. Zucker has admitted he hopes there is a degree of outrage over the show, because that would be good publicity. But audiences quickly grow accustomed to things that once upset them. That can only mean programmers of the future will have to go ever further to generate outrage, as the level of coarseness and incivility continues to decline in the culture generally.
Television always trots out the chicken-and-egg arguments. Industry officials believe they are reflecting, not leading society. That's an argument for which there is no definitive answer. But one thing is certain. With a full slate of reality programs based on sex, and a bevy of sitcoms looking to take prime-time audiences to new lows, network television is doing precious little to improve the culture. Witness how the family hour is now a quaint thing of the past.
KSL, which, like this newspaper, is owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has taken a stand. It deserves applause. Our hope is that no other station in this market is crass enough to pick up "Coupling" for the sake of profits.