Reviews > Culture

Sleaze TV falters

Culture | As Action dies in the ratings, Fox places similarly nasty fare on the shelf-for now

Issue: "The harvest of abortion," Oct. 23, 1999

Last month, Fox cut down (though it didn't eliminate entirely) a scene depicting a homosexual sex act from its series Action. The act involved the show's lead, Jay Mohr, as studio executive Peter Dragon, and a male movie star. The reason the scene wasn't cut entirely, Fox says, is that it shows what Dragon, a heterosexual, will do to assure a film's success. But after three episodes that got progressively worse (see World, Sept. 18), Dragon's moral vacuum is pretty well established. And so is Fox's. But it appears Fox may just be admitting that its audience members-if not its corporate conscience-have limits. Of course, it might just be the ratings; the numbers for Action started low and have been falling off. Two weeks ago, the show was ranked at No. 95. (It was beaten in its time slot by a Frasier rerun.) That means future weeks are in question, as well. The show will be preempted for a couple of weeks by sports, and it's supposed to return. We have reason to hope that won't happen. Also, two other new sleazy series, Malcolm in the Middle and Manchester Prep, have not even aired. Both shows first were demoted to replacement-series status, meaning December debuts, unless some other series proved to be an even bigger bomb. Now, Manchester Prep will not debut at all. Citing creative differences with the show's producers, Fox cancelled the show, which was a television version of the crude movie Cruel Intentions. Malcolm in the Middle, however, might be salvaged. This show is supposed to be a comedy about a 9-year-old genius trying to have a normal life. But it opens with these nihilistic words: "My name is Malcolm. Want to know what the best thing about childhood is? At some point, it stops."

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