Are TV screenwriters addicted to sex? Well, maybe not, but they’re certainly writing a lot more of it into primetime programming, according to a survey conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation, which found some 3,800 scenes with sexual content in more than 1,100 shows studied, up from 1,900 in 1998. Of course, sex is in the eye of the beholder: Kaiser researchers counted scenes with as little as characters kissing or talking about sex, as well as scenes of sexual intercourse, while sampling a week’s worth of programming on ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, The WB, PBS, Lifetime, TNT, USA Network and HBO.
Call me naïve, but I was a little surprised that the survey results showed such a surge in blue material on television. I mean, while 70 percent of shows surveryed had sexual content, a lot of my favorite TV shows– Lost, Survivor, Commander in Chief, Threshold, and American Idol – don’t have much racy material at all. Then again, I guess all the freaky-deakies in the CSI, Law & Order, and HBO universes are doing their part to tip the balance. Oh, and come to think of it, the randy docs on Grey’s Anatomy (including Katherine Heigl’s calendar girl/health professional Izzie, above) spend more time making rounds of each other’s bedrooms than they do their patients’ bedsides. But at least the staff at Grey’s Seattle Grace Hospital dealt with a syphilis outbreak, bucking the trend Kaiser found: Only 14 percent of shows with sexual content mentioned contraception, waiting for sex, or other safer-sex messages.
What do you think? Is there too much sex on TV today? Not enough? And what’s your pick for the sexiest show in primetime?