The Buzz

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SOME SAY that the now-infamous snapshot of the 22%-nation-those voters saying "moral values" was the most important issue in the presidential election-is inaccurate and based on poor polling. But they are not TV executives. Last week ABC quickly disavowed a "Monday Night Football" steamy on-air promo for "Desperate Housewives" featuring a not-especially-clad Nicolette Sheridan. (Newsflash: Sports producers unskilled at subtlety!) This came days after over one-fourth of ABC's 225 affiliates refused to air "Saving Private Ryan"-not because of battlefield brutality but because of salty language.

Say what you will about the tyranny of pop culture and its race to the bottom, but some key players feel very nervous these days. And if you believe that the tidal wave of demand swamps smaller concerns about what belongs in prime time-well, blogger Jeff Jarvis' Freedom of Information Act found that the record $1.2 million fine for Fox's "Married By America" was the result of a whopping 23 viewer complaints. Welcome back to the early '80s, and big guys quaking at the letter-writing-brigade's backlash. Except that today's pop culture is bigger, coarser, more ubiquitous and-yes-better than it was. Buzz has no idea how any of this shakes out, save for noting one internal conflict in America, the libertines vs. the Calvinists, remains unsettled after all these years, and that we'll be reading a lot more about it in the months to come.

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