Television has trended toward more explicit content for decades. With the arrival of Netflix, Amazon and Hulu—as well as the cultural ascendance of shows on premium cable networks such as HBO—that trend seems to be accelerating.
Even shows where you might have expected producers to dial things down—like, say, Amazon’s new Tom Clancy-inspired series Jack Ryan, for example—seem to be lobbing gratuitous nudity and profanity into the mix. Apparently, that’s just the way things are done these days.
Or maybe not.
Apple’s new streaming service, scheduled to debut later this year, may offer a more restrained alternative. In the Wall Street Journal article “No Sex Please, We’re Apple: iPhone Giant Seeks TV Success on Its Own Terms,” writers Tripp Mickle and Joe Flint detail the tech giant’s plans to keep things cleaner. Apple CEO Tim Cook deemed that its first planned show, Vital Signs, to be too violent and explicit, and so he nixed it. And that restraint, it seems, will be standard for other new Apple programming too. “Since Mr. Cook spiked Vital Signs, Apple has made clear, say producers and agents, that it wants high-quality shows with stars and broad appeal, but it doesn’t want gratuitous sex, profanity or violence,” Mickle and Flint write.
But it’s not just explicit content. Apple seems bent on steering clear of culturally divisive issues, too. Mickle and Flint add:
Before saying yes to [a] psychological thriller [helmed by M. Night Shyamalan], Apple executives had a request: Please eliminate the crucifixes in the couple’s house, said people working on the project. They said executives made clear they didn’t want shows that venture into religious subjects or politics.
Speaking of Thrones, HBO has developed a reputation for some of the most sexually explicit material anywhere in the TV realm. Perhaps surprisingly, though, the cable network has reportedly been pairing back some of its “adult” content, removing explicitly erotic movies and series from its lineup this summer, according the Los Angeles Times.
The rationale for the decision, however, seems to be less about morality and more about the bottom line, with an unnamed HBO representative telling the L.A. Times,
Over the past several years HBO has been winding down its late-night adult fare. While we’re greatly ramping up our other original program offerings, there hasn’t been a strong demand for this kind of adult programming, perhaps because it’s easily available elsewhere.
Like, say, Showtime, according to CNN.
Another HBO show, (sigh) Sesame Street, was in the news this week too, this time for the long-running conversation about whether Bert and Ernie are gay. In an interview with the Queerty (as reported by Slate), openly gay Sesame Street writer Mark Saltzman said, “I always felt that without a huge agenda, when I was writing Bert and Ernie, they were [a couple] … I didn’t have any other way to contextualise them.”
Well, Muppet master Frank Oz (who has not only voiced Bert, but Miss Piggy, Cookie Monster and, of course, Yoda, along with lots of others) wasn’t having any of that, and he took to Twitter to respond:
It seems Mr. Mark Saltzman was asked if Bert & Ernie are gay. It’s fine that he feels they are. They’re not, of course. But why that question? Does it really matter? Why the need to define people as only gay? There’s much more to a human being than just straightness or gayness.
The show’s producers reiterated that Bert and Ernie are “best friends” and “remain puppets, and do not have a sexual orientation.” That said, the Sesame Workshop issued a second statement, adding, “Sesame Street has always stood for inclusion and acceptance. It’s a place where people of all cultures and backgrounds are welcome.”
Over in the realm of video games, several very different franchises continue to engage millions of players and make millions (or billions) of dollars. Marvel’s Spider-Man, for PlayStation 4, is the fastest-selling first-party game ever for that platform. It moved 3.3 million copies in its first three days, racking up an estimated $198 million in sales. That number, as USA Today notes, pretty much obliterates the $117 million that the movie Spider-Man: Homecoming made in its weekend debut.
Fortnite, meanwhile, makes about that much money in … a fortnight. The game has reportedly made about $1.2 billion thus far. (And NBC reports indicate that some parents are even hiring tutors to help their kids compete.) Those income estimates put it …
… at about half of what the “free” online app Pokémon Go has made. Turns out, prompting players to try to catch ’em all is pretty lucrative business: Forbes reports that the game just passed the $2 billion mark since its release a little more than two years ago. Those numbers are driven by an estimated 5 million daily players and 65 million who lob a pokéball at least once a month. To date, the app has been downloaded some 800 million times.
Perhaps some of those playing those games are among the young adults who’ve decided to call it quits with Facebook. A new Pew Research survey has found that 44% of users ages 18- to 29 have deleted the social media juggernaut from their phones.
Elsewhere this week, Coca-Cola is pondering putting pot in some new beverages, Tim Tebow is offering his thoughts on “chasing your calling,” and Bill Cosby has spent his first night in prison after being convicted and sentenced (for three to 10 years) for sexually assaulting Andrea Constand in 2004.
Finally, it’s a good week for überfans of The Office and Miley Cyrus’ little sister, Noah. With regard to the former, Screenbid has put some 500 props from the NBC comedy up for auction. So if you always wanted to snag Dwight’s electric pencil sharpener, get to bidding! (It’s currently at $200.)
As for Noah, well, she recently suffered through a difficult breakup with her boyfriend Lil Xan. Luckily she was already thinking about how to best monetize her pain, so she decided to bottle up her tears … which are now for sale for the low, low price of $12,000 on the site Pizzaslime, according to CNN. The auction description warns, “Human digestion of these tears is not suggested.”