Reviews > Culture

Skin flicked

Culture

Issue: "California's wall of fire," Nov. 8, 2003

It's a Romeo and Juliet story featuring the son of an anti-smut crusader in love with the daughter of a pornographer. It has something for everybody: Women would like the tender love story. Guys would like the glimpses of porn. The religious right could identify with the John Ashcroft figure.

Network executives at Fox were convinced they had the makings of a megahit, so they produced Skin and hyped it non-stop, advertising it seemingly every other inning during top-rated baseball playoff games. Fox's massive promotion plan included using the sure-fire sequel to Joe Millionaire as Skin's lead-in. This was going to be huge!

But when the ratings came in, Fox executives, as quoted in The New York Times, were "bewildered." Both shows were catastrophic ratings bombs. The last Joe Millionaire had 40 million viewers. The Next Joe Millionaire, which had scoured Europe for the few gold-diggers in the world who had never heard of the first show, finished last in its time slot. So did Skin. What happened? How could all of that mass promotion have failed?

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Maybe the TV experts did not realize that, while women do like tender love stories, few are comfortable with the porn world. That while there are guys who are attracted by that sort of thing, they are not interested in tender love stories. That those who oppose porn are not likely to appreciate how a show like this is going to caricature them. That Romeo and Juliet is not about teen lust but about marriage.

Maybe the TV experts did not realize the fatal flaws of The Next Joe Millionaire. One might think that Americans in an anti-European mood would enjoy watching French women fooled into thinking that an American cowboy was a millionaire, with their fawning turning to humiliation in the last episode when they learned the bitter truth. But who can identify with them, or even understand their accents? Besides, a joke is only funny the first time we hear it.

And maybe the TV experts did not realize that Americans have become subject to so much hype over the years that we no longer necessarily believe it. Could it be that the commercials came on so often during baseball games that viewers were sick of the shows before they even aired?

Gene Edward Veith
Gene Edward Veith

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