Two men pouring champagne on a naked woman is not, by conventional standards, family television entertainment.
But that is exactly what Harold R. Nemecheck, a member of Arlington's cable television advisory committee, said he saw in "crystal clear" black and white Wednesday night when he flicked on channel 14 of the Arlington Telecommunications cable network, formerly reserved for sports events.
But thanks to an engineering glitch, Nemecheck and perhaps as many as 2,000 ARTEC subscribers -- who had not requested the controversial Escapade/Playboy channel and its sexually oriented R-rated fare -- got it anyway.
"When you've got a naked body running across the screen, it catches your attention," said Nemecheck, who added that he doesn't -- and won't -- subscribe to the channel, though he does not object to it. Nemecheck's chief worry Wednesday night was that some boys in his Boy Scout troop might have stumbled onto the bubbly bath, or some of these scheduled shows -- "Sensuous Nurse," "High Heels" and "Everything Goes."
Wednesday night's snafu marked the already controversial debut of the Escapade/Playboy TV channel, which the Catholic Diocese of Arlington and some Arlington residents had opposed as pornographic.
"I am absolutely shocked and dismayed that ARTEC would permit that to happen," said Arlington County Board Chairman Stephen H. Detwiler, an ARTEC subscriber who had not signed up for the adult-film channel but who switched to the station after getting a complaint. "It's totally contrary to all the assurances that we had received."
As ARTEC workers hurried yesterday to black out its accidental audience, Executive Vice President John D. Evans minimized the mishap's importance. "A very small minority could see a black and white picture with no sound," Evans said. "If that upset them, I'm sorry about that, and we are fine-tuning the system." Evans said, however, that some ARTEC subscribers may still have received the uninvited channel last night.
At about 10 p.m. Wednesday ARTEC increased its scrambling signal, which obscures the picture with wavy lines. But some subscribers said they could still see the new channel into the night. "By the end of the evening, it was considerably more scrambled and difficult to view," said a North Arlington man.
Despite complaints, not all the news for ARTEC was bad. Evans said the controversy surrounding the Escapade/Playboy channel has helped it win more than 2,000 subscribers, who pay $4.95 a month if they already have ARTEC's HBO or Cinemax services or $7.95 a month if they have neither, plus installation fees.
Said Evans of all the fuss: "It certainly brought a wider knowledge of the product."