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Ass Cracks and Cleavage

Noah Wyle drops trou on "ER." Sharon Lawrence disrobes on "NYPD Blue." Flick to "Baywatch," and--in that split second before the male mind becomes catatonic--all I can think is, "Yikes, Silicon Valley."

There's a disturbing trend about on TV, and it's spreading like Dennis Franz's ass on an undersized stool. (I should know, having seen said ass last season.) For some reason, with ever-increasing frequency, the television industry is unveiling in greater detail body parts previously kept private. And it's not just the "Silk Stalkings" and "Baywatches" of the world either. Where ass cracks and cleavage were once the domain of cable and syndicated television, respected shows like "ER" and "NYPD Blue" now interweave compelling stories with gratuitous, lingering body shots.

What's to be made of all this? Depending on your perspective, I suppose, this could either be a good or bad thing. The good is obvious: A large number of women, I'm certain, went into paroxysmal fits when Noah Wyle rolled down his surgical scrubs last week on "ER." By the same token, I know of no man who maintains the power of speech when Pamela Lee bounces across the screen. But there's a flip side, and one not to be taken lightly. Thus far, TV producers have had the good sense to limit the disrobings to relatively attractive folks. Lee, for example, is the world's reigning sex symbol; Lawrence, Sherry Stringfield, and Kim Delaney are all very easy on the eyes; and Wyle and Jimmy Smits, I'm told, are considered quite the cat's meow. (I know nothing about such things--not that there's anything wrong with that.)

Others, however, are not so... uh, shall we say, pleasing? Consider: What if one day Katey Sagal and Ed O'Neill got it in their heads to disrobe before the cameras? The mere thought gives me the heebie-jeebies. Or Al on "Home Improvement"? Somehow, the words "amateur porn" seem appropriate. Ellen DeGeneres? Well, at least, we'd clear up some nagging gender questions...

As I see it, to paraphrase Justice Cardozo, the problem is every good idea tends to expand to its logical limits. Once we cut loose the Wyles and Delaneys, there's nothing to hold back the Kathy Kinneys and Ally Walkers of the world. That's not to say that looks are everything (trust me, I'm among the most thankful that they're not), but what we're talking about here is bare asses on your television screen. This is not an area in which we should be treading lightly, worried about soothing ruffled feathers. I can think of one example that proves the point quite emphatically, and I will close with it. Earlier this season, when ABC was hyping the premieres for its shows, one of the commercials consisted of a shot of Roseanne riding herd on John Goodman.

While wearing only a bra.

I figured you'd come around to my way of thinking. The madness must end--and here's hoping it ends before Roseanne gets any lower ideas.


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