This may sound like a stupid question: When did Primetime TV become SO saturated with innuendo? You’re probably saying to yourself, “Brian, have you been living under a rock since Carroll O’Connor and the Fonz?” You may be saying that, but nevertheless hear me out on this one.
In the early 2000’s, I loved watching Thursday Night’s NBC lineup of FRIENDS, then the walk the dog show, then WILL & GRACE. FRIENDS was on at 8PM, and they absolutely, no doubt dealt with relationships and sexuality. But it was done with a slight-of-hand approach. We knew exactly what Ross and Rachel meant by that joke about what they did last night, wink wink, ha, ha, cue the applause track, but nobody ever came out and said it. Never came out and said it. At 9PM, WILL & GRACE was rolling, and the innuendo was turned up a notch, and the jokes became a little more obvious (raunchy) in this regard. But that was OK. It was 9PM. The kids should be on their way to bed by then and adult time was starting for the evening. It was a mature program for a mature time slot. And, if I remember correctly, the show was prompted by some kind of rating on the screen that let mom know it was time for little Timmy to go and get his PJ’s on, because Jack and Karen were going to be tackling subjects not meant for little boys and little girls.
That was then. This is now.
Last night, I did what I do every Monday night: Watched HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER on CBS. You guys know how much I love this show. I think it is the second smartest sitcom on TV (30 ROCK), and it is full of heart and is hugely funny, and the writing/acting is A++. I thought their episode GOOD NEWS, BAD NEWS last month was a 30-minute masterpiece. But the innuendo is out of control in EVERY episode. Keep in mind this is an 8PM show that runs in syndication at 7PM and 7.30PM. Translation: It’s always on. The first 5 minutes of the show last night, entitled DESPERATION DAY, was littered with blatant, in-your-face innuendo about the most graphic areas of sexuality you can imagine. There was no wink, wink, ha, ha here. This was a Mike Tyson uppercut to Kourtney Kardashian’s jaw, again and again.
The plot was as follows: Barney declares February 13th "Desperation Day," a holiday for desperate women. Meanwhile, Lily surprises Marshall for Valentine's Day, Ted and Zoey continue to figure out their relationship and Robin bonds with her single girlfriends. Here’s a few cracks that came on the sunny side of 8.05PM. “She wants me to come over and bake cookies,” Ted tells the gang, to which Robin says, “Translation, booty call.” “Private Booty, reporting for duty,” Quips Lily. “A woman invents an elaborate excuse to mask the fact that she wants to get stuck real good,” Robin informs. “Before you know she’s bent over the marble island and you’re spanking her with a rubber spatula and she’s crying stop, stop, but that’s code for harder, harder!” retorts Lily. OK, take a breath.
The innuendo stayed in high gear for the rest of the episode, but it was this joke at about 8.25PM that inspired me to write this recap. At the bar where the whole gang hangs out, Barney and Robin are left alone, Valentine’s Eve has passed and neither has had a date or hooked up. At this point Robin says to Barney, “It’s past midnight, desperation day has come and gone and you’ve neither gone or . . .” Well you know the rest.
I am a pretty liberal guy. But I’m sorry that’s way too graphic, and obvious, and in your face for 8.25PM. I was actually a little uncomfortable watching, and would’ve crawled into a ball and died if I was watching it with my mother or great aunt, etc. I don’t have kids yet. But when I do what’s 8PM TV going to look like? Are the actors going to actually perform the innuendo? Sound crazy? They’re a small step from doing it at this point. There is an art to being a bit subtle, every once in a while. Bottom line: It’s too much.
Maybe I’m just getting old and grouchy. Maybe the music is getting too loud. Maybe quoting old rockers from the 60’s and 70's to sound super-smart and super-hip isn’t super-smart or super-hip anymore. Maybe, in the words of Bob Dylan, “The times they are a changin’.”
Watch the episode yourself: http://www.cbs.com/primetime/how_i_met_your_mother/video/?play=true&pid=w_CAa1LgH_qHcl3ZP3WovGDifVyW7ps3
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