by Leah Waldron
I have nothing against TV shows like “Law and Order SVU,” “America’s Got Talent” and “Days of Our Lives.” In fact, I’ve watched nearly every episode of SVU since it first aired in 1999, when Mariska Hargitay was a rough-around-the-edges cop (with a lesbian haircut) and Christopher Meloni was uber-Catholic and married. So when KSL, an NBC affiliate in Salt Lake City announced that it was dropping the new sitcom “The New Normal” from its Fall lineup for “inappropriate” content, I had to wonder: How can they ban a “Modern Family”-style sitcom, but keep showing SVU, which has some of the most highly-contested, graphic depictions of rape, child molestation and torture? And what about “AGT” and “Days of Our Lives,” which both have gay story lines and super-gay contestants? Aside from the obvious issues of censorship, what is “too gay” TV programming?
KSL’s decision to air SVU’s 14th season, but not the first season of “The New Normal,” is confusing, at best. SVU’s sexual imagery and content is not only disturbing, but offers a not-very-nuanced commentary on social issues like women’s rights, sex abuse and yes, sexual orientation. For example, SVU featured a lesbian kiss between Hargitay and guest star Kathy Griffin (I welcomed the lesbian viewer pandering), and actor Ice T, who plays Detective “Fin” Tutuola, grappled with having a gay son. This past season, SVU devoted an entire episode to the tragedy of LGBT hate crimes—complete with a mushy scene between Tutuola and his son, whose fiancee had been severely beaten by an anti-gay gang and lay helpless in a coma. The “ripped from the headlines” episode was so emotionally heart-wrenching that the pro-gay political message was lost in the story—a concept that SVU has expertly mastered over the years.
It appears that KSL would rather ban a dopey series about a gay couple hiring a surrogate than stop airing SVU, which deals with real-life LGBT crimes and situations—and is as liberal-leaning as TV gets.
I decided to peruse KSL’s current TV programming schedule, and not surprisingly, SVU is not the only series with gay story lines, characters and contestants. KSL offers a daily weekday dose of the soap opera “Days of Our Lives,” which, this summer, announced its first anti-gay bullying storyline, just months after airing its first steamy gay kiss. On the reality show “America’s Got Talent,” which airs just about every night this week, gay, lesbian, and drag queen contestants have competed for the chance to become America’s newest superstar, and new judge Howard Stern is one of the most vocal pro-gay celebrities in America.
So how is “The New Normal” different from AGT’s “All Beef Patty” drag queen, two hunky guys kissing on “Days of Our Lives,” and Mariska Hargitay’s lip-lock with Kathy Griffin?
For one, “The New Normal” is a project by Ryan Murphy, the creator of “Glee.” Perhaps KSL worries that a show set in Los Angeles about gay marriage and surrogacy (both are illegal in Utah) will take a page from “Glee” and go the “after school special” route on gay adoption, marriage and parenting issues. Or, KSL may see “The New Normal” as the new “Modern Family,” the ABC series about a non-traditional extended family that includes a gay couple raising an adopted daughter.
By banning a sitcom about a non-nuclear family, KSL is implying that there is only one accepted family in Utah, and viewers—which the station deigns to speak for—are living in the dark ages of black and white (and straight) TV, when a nuclear TV family represented America. And for the many LGBT individuals in Salt Lake City, KSL’s decision to ban “The New Normal” tells them that they do not deserve representation on television, and that they should channel surf elsewhere.
Maybe KSL should change their call letters to KGB.
America’s Got Talent