Mariah Carey, E=MC2
Aphex Twin, Selected Ambient Works 85-92
Naked Brothers Band, I Don't Wanna Go To School
Rupa & The April Fishes, Extraordinary Rendition
Frank Sinatra, At the Movies
Jordan Zevon, Insides Out
Dianne Reeves, When You Know
Rush, Snakes & Arrows Live
Hannah Montana, The Best of Both Worlds Concert
This week's releases
Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem
Before the Devil Knows You're Dead
The 11th Hour
Ben 10: Race Against Time
Rock of Love (Season 1)
This week's releases
Emergency Mayhem (Wii)
Gran Turismo 5 Prologue (PS3)
Major League Baseball 2K8 Fantasy All-Stars (NDS)
Rondo Of Swords (NDS)
Summer Sports (Wii)
Teenage Zombies (NDS)
It was almost as if the NBC comedy writers had decided to test the limits of prime-time taste just as the network unveiled a family-friendly philosophy of scheduling.
Thursday's episodes of 30 Rock and The Office, the first new installments to be broadcast since the end of the writers' strike, each included coy references to a vulgarity: in one case it was bleeped out; in the other it was winked at in an acronym. While not unprecedented, the occurrences in the back-to-back prime-time shows were jarring. They also raise questions about the placement of 30 Rock as an anchor of what an NBC executive, Ben Silverman, has designated the "family hour."
In the case of 30 Rock, the reference came in the form of an acronym — part of the title of a make-believe Survivor-like show — referring to a teenager's crude designation of someone's sexy mother (that would be MILF Island, which has been mentioned on the show previously). In The Office, besides the bleeping, the character's lips were even pixilated to prevent lip reading. But it was not difficult for many viewers instantly to realize what was said.
Mitch Metcalf, NBC's executive vice president for program scheduling, said in an interview on Friday that the shows were not breaking new ground: comedies on NBC and other networks have used the vulgarity before, he said, and cited a 1993 episode of Seinfeld.
Metcalf noted that both of Thursday's shows carried a TV-14 rating. That rating warns parents that they might find some of the content unsuitable for children younger than 14.
The general content of the 30 Rock episode, however, appears to work against NBC's positioning of the show in its family hour, the 8 to 9 p.m. block of programming that Silverman said would consist of shows a family could watch together.
The contestants on the island-based reality-show-within-a-show on 30 Rock are described as 20 "holy hot mamas," who are accompanied by 50 eighth-grade boys as they compete at tasks like "eating bugs to earn tampons." They square off in "Erection Cove," with the loser having to remove her bikini top and burn it in the fire.
Metcalf said that the family-hour designation should be seen as offering "direction for program development," not "black-and-white expectations" for the audience.
"It was not to be construed as a return to a strictly defined family hour," he said, featuring wholesome shows like Little House on the Prairie. "Those days and those audience expectations are gone." He further differentiated NBC's Thursday-night comedy block from the family shows planned for other nights at 8.
"Our tradition is one of adult, edgy, sophisticated comedies" on Thursday nights, he said. "There are not going to be hard and fast rules" for the family hour, Metcalf added.