There’s some irony in the fact that I’m not as thrilled about naked people on TV now as I was decades ago, when it was almost impossible to find any.
When cable TV first came to Albion, it excited people in many ways. You could see music videos! You could watch movies on Home Box Office, almost as if you had a box office in your home! They had an entire channel devoted to the weather! How cool is that?
Another exciting thing was that you could see the channel at all. If you happened to live in a bad place for receiving signals over the airwaves, you could swear every TV show took place in a blizzard. When I was a kid, if you wanted to go from watching three Fort Wayne TV stations to the two more or less visible South Bend stations, you had to physically go outside and move the entire pole the antenna was on.
I’m not making this up, you whippersnappers.
But without a doubt, the channel that most excited people of my age was a pay channel called Cinemax. Why? Well, we called it Skinemax, which should give you a clue.
The first movie I ever saw on HBO was Star Wars. The first movie I ever saw on Cinemax was H.O.T.S., which according to a character in the trailer meant “Hold On To Sex”. Young college woman—who seemed just a little old for college—went topless in this movie. No tops! It also had a plot … I assume.
Nudity on TV!
Now it’s hanging out all over the place.
In fact, there’s a trend on basic cable channels, which are already showing things that thirty years ago you’d have to pay extra for. The trend: Take reality shows that already exist, do them over without clothes, and see the ratings skyrocket.
Take the dating show, for instance. Instead of waiting to see if they’ll get naked at the end of the date, strip ‘em before they even meet. It’s, yep, “Dating Naked”.
Take a typical show about a young couple shopping for the perfect home. Instead of stripping the furnishings, strip the couple, and you have “Buying Naked”. They’re nudists, you see.
The newest is “Skin Wars”, about artists who paint on nude models. But are the artists also nude? It’s only fair.
Then there’s my favorite: Take a typical survivor show, but have a man and woman in the buff. It’s called “Naked And Afraid”. Wouldn’t you be afraid if your nether regions were directly exposed to everything from mosquitos to poison ivy?
I’ve seen bits and pieces of “Naked And Afraid”—pardon the expression. Some contestants immediately find something to cover their unmentionables, flying in the face (pardon the expression) of the whole point. It’s like H.O.T.S. with everyone wearing a Mumu.
The producers are quick to insist that these shows are not about nudity, and one even insisted that “Naked and Afraid” was a family show.
Well, yeah, if your family lives in the Sunnyside Up Nudist Colony. But let’s face it, the real point of these shows isn’t that people should be comfortable with their bodies: It’s that sex sells.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become interested in plot and characterization. While these shows do indeed have characters, the blurring out of certain body part areas seems to negate the real reason to watch them. Still, it’s a trend that’s not going away as long as there’s money to be made at it. I predict that within the next ten years, nudity will go from rare to common on broadcast TV, too. Imagine, on “Home Improvement”, how much more damage Tim Taylor would have done to himself in the buff. Imagine how much easier it would have been for “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” to kill monsters if they were too busily ogling her body to mount a defense.
Let’s take a look at how current TV shows would handle this:
“The Big Bang Theory”. The genius nerds see neighbor Penny naked every day, turning them into slobbering idiots who can’t turn a car key, let alone work out physics equations. As a result they all lose their jobs except for Sheldon, who’s only bothered by how unsanitary the whole thing is.
“American Idol”. We get still more proof that for what it takes to become a popular singer, looks matter as much as ability.
“Dancing With The Stars”. Injuries during practice become much more serious.
“Grey’s Anatomy”. The name gets changed to “Everyone’s Anatomy”.
“Resurrection”. Now sponsored by Viagra.
“Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD”. Agent Coulson strips off that perfectly tailored suit to reveal … a perfectly tailored suit. At the network, the suits are puzzled.
“Survivor”. Pretty much nothing changes.
In all those crime shows with scenes set in morgues and labs, the characters will be way more careful with the scalpels. You just watch and see.
And I’m sure you will.