Welcome to Howard Stern's last week on terrestrial radio. According to Howard, his show has been sub-par since his first FCC fine in '87. (a guest played piano without his hands...wink), and the time to move to satellite radio is now. If you ask Howard, he's making the move to regain his creative edge. If you ask his critics, he's being pushed. Funny thing is, it's basically one group doing the pushing...but that's nothing new.
It's a centuries-old battle. Entertainers have pushed the boundaries of what's considered acceptable, and critics have labeled their offenses the end of civilized culture. The offenses may have gotten more outrageous, and the critics may have gotten...well...more annoying, but the battle remains the same.
When you take a look back, it's funny to see what used to be considered outrageous. Take November 22, 1968, for instance, when television's first interracial kiss caused quite the ruckus. Kirk and Uhura's locked lips led to massive protests in the Southern states (go figure) but fortunately, the bulk of the feedback received by the network was positive...and Heidi Klum and Seal have been going at it ever since.
But that's just the tip of the indecent iceberg. Let's take a look at some outrageous firsts in U.S. network televison history. And no snickering, please...we're all adults here.
1947: First Couple to Share a Bed: Mary Kay and Johnny, on...Mary Kay and Johnny (makes sense) Story
1957: First Toilet on Television.
Seems silly now, but before the 70's the bathroom was as taboo as it got. (On January 12, 1971, Archie Bunker was responsible for the flush heard round the world) It was Leave it to Beaver that managed to cut a ground-breaking deal with the FCC, showing the first toilet on October 4, 1957. The episode had been shelved for a week because of the controversy, but the toilet scene was vital to the plot (something about Wally and Beav hiding a baby alligator) and a compromise was reached...only the toilet tank was kept in scene. Story.
1957: First Exposed Rack on Television.
This honor goes to Jayne Mansfield, who exhaled at the 1957 Academy Awards and accidentally let it all hang out. But if you're looking for intended nudity, that honor goes to Valerie Perrine playing an angel in a heavenly locker room in the PBS teleplay Steambath.
1967: First Time the Word Hell was Used on Television.
Star Trek was a groundbreaking little tv series, wasn't it? We already know their position on the interracial thing, but they didn't stop there. Use of the word "hell" was a television no-no until the 60's. And it wasn't until April 6, 1967, in the episode City on the Edge of Forever (the one with Joan Collins) that H-E-double hockey sticks sqeaked out. At the end of the episode, a disgusted Kirk says "Let's get the hell out of here", and another first was born.
1971: First time the phrase God Damn It was used on Television. (then repeated many, many times)
But Archie didn't stop there. One of the greatest things about All in the Family, was the way it brought issues out in the open, in a very in-your-face style. The lovable bigot was the first to use a number of epithets openly in an attempt to bring racism to the forefront. Words like fag and fairy flowed freely off Archie's tongue, as well. Actually, Norman Lear was responsible for the first gay character on prime time. A closeted football-playng friend of Mike's came out on the show. All in the family was some ground-breaking shit. Story
1972: First Abortion on Television.
Sorry for the visual of Bea Arthur having sex, but it was a 1972 two-part episode titled Maude's Dilemma that first addressed this topic. In it, the 45-year-old character, Maude Findlay found herself pregnant and opted for an abortion. Two CBS affiliates canceled the episodes and CBS received 7,000 letters. (The Roe vs. Wade decision was still one year away) In daytime tv, the first (then illegal) abortion operation aired in 1964 on the NBC soap opera Another World .
1974: First Rape Scene on Television
The controversial TV movie Born Innocent, starring Linda Blair, first ran on the NBC network on September 10, 1974. The film, which involved a fourteen-year-old being sent to a reform school, drew heavy criticism due to an all-female rape scene involving a toilet plunger handle (holy shit), the first ever seen on American television (yeah, no kidding). The scene was deleted in subsequent re-airings after a group of girls assaulted an eight-year-old with a pop bottle, influenced by the scene in the film. (side note...this incident led to the creation of the Family Viewing Hour) Story
1974: First Time the word Bastard was used on Television: Meg calls her son Ben a "bastard" on the soap opera Love of Life. (about three years after my mom started)
And now, a short break for a famous outrageous moment in television history
Bob: Here's the last of our five-point questions. Girls, tell me where, specifically, is the weeeeeiirdest place that you personally, girls, have ever gotten the urge the make whoopee. The weirdest place. Olga?
Olga: Uh . . .
Henry: Go ahead.
Bob: Yes, Olga.
Olga: I'm trying to think. Umm . . . [Turns to husband.] Gee Henry, what did you say?
Bob: Hey, don't ask him. He can't help you out at all.
Olga: Is it in the ass? [Last three words bleeped]
1977: First Recurring Gay Character on Television.
Soap is commonly mistaken for the first series to include a sustained gay character, but at least one other series, 1972's The Corner Bar, preceded it. But let's face it, Soap gets all the credit. The character, Jodie Dallas, was played by Billy Crystal, and many stations refused to air the series because of it. (Side note: first gay couple on bed: ThirtySomething)
1980: First Douchebag on Television.
Robert Novak joined CNN in...just kidding.
This is my favorite. I've got no real proof that the SNL Lord Douchebag sketch that aired on may 24, 1980 was the first time the word was used on network television (you have proof of the others?) but it's not really the kind of thing that's easy to look up. Let's just assume it is, and read the script here, because it's really funny.
1981: First Time the word FiretrUCK was used on Television.
The show: Saturday Night Live, The guest host: Charlene Tilton. In a Dallas sketch, Charles Rocket, playing JR, was asked how he felt. His response..."I just want to know who the fuck shot me!" They say it was the fuck heard 'round the world. Rocket was summarily fired, went on to a life of relative obscurity and as many of you know, recently commited suicide...harsh.
First Time the word Condom is Spoken: The Hogan Family
First Time an Actual Condom is used in a Scene: Cagney and Lacey
1983: First Package on Television.
Does it count if it's not noticed until 17 years later? In 1983, Three's Company ran an episode called The Charming Stranger, but it wasn't until years later that a viewer watching the episode on Nickelodeon noticed the extra special view John Ritter was accidentally giving the audience. My favorite part of the whole thing is that a representative for Nickelodeon was quoted as confirming "Yes, his scrotum falls out of his shorts". Story
1989: First Time the word Pussy was used in a Non-Feline Capacity.(referring back to an earlier alleged use)
Fonda: I gotta ask you something.
Fonda: Last night, my son . . . you know, you were talking about Zsa Zsa Gabor earlier . . .
Carson: Yeah, I think everyone's talking about her.
Fonda: My son said . . . "You know, she was on the Johnny Carson Show one time. She came there with a cat on her lap, and she said to you, 'Do you want to pet my pussy?'" And my son said that you said, uh, "I'd love to if you'd remove that damn cat!" Is it true?
Carson: [Shaking head] I . . . I tell you, I . . .
Fonda: Is it true?
Carson: No, I think I would recall that.
So, Zsa Zsa...probably not, but Jane Fonda...apparently so. Story.
PS: That's awesome.
1991: First Lesbian Kiss on Television. (cue the angels singing)
We come to the first one I actually witnessed live...the LA Law kiss between Amanda Donohoe and Michelle Green first aired on February 7, 1991. It was historic not only because it was the first time lesbians kissed on TV, but because neither character died, killed anyone, or was ostracized afterward. (Prior to this, gay characters were portrayed as killer or sexual predators)
Soon Roseanne was kissing Mariel Hemingway, Calista Flockhart was kissing Lucy Liu, Jennifer Aniston was kissing Winona Ryder and Ellen was kissing everybody....and Howard Stern is a 500 millionaire because of it all. We've come a long way.
And finally..Dennis Franz's naked ass.
Now click here for the rest of the YesButNo nonsense.