WASHINGTON What are the watchdogs watching?
The D.C. pols pressing for tougher indecency legislation are vocal on what they don’t like about TV in general, but showbizzers might logically wonder what these would-be tube moralists are watching from the comfort of their own couches.
Indeed, America’s indecency arbiters have some interesting viewing habits.
Take Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.): He practically made a career out of bashing Hollywood’s corrupting influence on kids, but may have learned a thing or two on the campaign trail as a candidate for the Democratic presidential nom earlier this year.
Lieberman has so far steered clear of the indecency debate, instead cautioning his colleagues not to take the anti-smut crusade too far.
“I think you’ve got to be real careful about censorship and going over the line,” he tells Variety. “I was always very careful about getting into censorship whenever I criticized the entertainment industry.”
In fact, Lieberman says he loves the medium — just not the last 40-some odd years of programming.
The conservative Democrat can’t name a show he enjoys right now, dipping back in history quite a ways to name “I Love Lucy” and Sid Caesar’s “Show of Shows” as his favorite programs.
Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kansas), another leading showbiz foe in Congress and the author of legislation boosting broadcast indecency fines exponentially, also had a problem coming up with anything other than sports and news he likes or even watches on TV these days. But he still loves “Touched by an Angel,” the feel-good drama canceled in 2003 and now airing in repeats on the Hallmark Channel.
Last year, Brownback was more forthcoming about offering his thoughts on TV content. He even suggested an idea for a more meaningful reality TV program: a series about people overcoming struggles and hardships in their lives like divorce or drugs and alcohol.
Ah, yes, nothing like coming home from a long day at work to watch someone detox.
Sen. Trent Lott’s (R-Miss.), favorite show would seem to square up with his recent vote in favor of the indecency bill: He’s a big fan of “American Idol.”
Lott used to sing in a barbershop quartet, so he’s ready to take on resident “Idol” malcontent Simon Cowell any day.
Lott’s not concerned about a mini-flap over Cowell allegedly flipping off Paula Abdul in one episode; He’s more annoyed by viewers’ decision to ax Jennifer Hudson in favor of bland carrot-top John Stevens.
“We had a real debate going in my office on that one,” Lott recalls with a chuckle.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who chairs the Commerce Committee where the indecency bill originated, is by far the hippest viewer of the bunch.
McCain loves “The Sopranos,” (nevermind that a naked woman was shot to death in this season’s third episode). It’s on HBO, not an over-the-air broadcaster, so McCain sees no problem with the show.
And though McCain voted in favor of the indecency bill, he’s more fired up about forcing cablers and satcasters to let consumers pick and choose “a la carte” which TV channels they want in their packages as a way to give parents more control over what their families watch.
McCain’s favorite show is “Curb Your Enthusiasm” — even though the last new episode ran earlier this year. Seems the maverick Republican, who regularly bucks his party’s leadership, identifies with the edgy comedy’s creator and irascible lead character.
“Larry David is just hilarious,” McCain says. “He has a wonderful way of alienating everyone he comes in contact with, and I can relate to that.”