“For us, the issue is about the Playboy brand, something we believe is associated with pornography and something we don’t want to further in our programming,” KSL’s programming chief, Michelle Torsak, told The TV Column Monday.
She said station execs had not yet seen the full pilot episode for “The Playboy Club” – just the four-minute-ish “sizzle reel” shown to station execs and advertisers at NBC’s Upfront Week presentation in Manhattan in mid-May.
The new drama series stars Eddie Cibrian as one of the patrons of the original Playboy Club in 60’s Chicago.
KSL’s decision “screams hypocrisy,” Salt Lake Tribune TV critic Scott Pierce said Monday, insisting the “The Playboy Club” pilot episode is far less “adult” than “every episode” of NBC’s long-running series “Law & Order: SVU” — a series KSL broadcasts.
Pierce, on a roll, also noted KSL aired nearly 200 episodes of the now-defunct NBC sitcom “Will & Grace” which, he snipped, “never met a dirty joke it didn’t like.”
But, Torsak stressed to the TV Column Monday, “it really is a brand question.”
“It’s entirely possible that the actual content [of ‘The Playboy Club’] is comparable to anything else on network television,” she said.
The Deseret News is also owned by Deseret Media Companies which, in turn, is controlled by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Despite all the “it’s the brand, stupid” talk, when KSL officially announced its decision to its viewers in one of its newscasts Monday, the station explained it had based its decision on its “long-term policy to screen programming for material which significant portions of our audience might find objectionable.”
Here’s a good place to note that in 2003, KSL also declined to air NBC’s primetime remake of Brit-com “Coupling,” and in 2000 it said “no thanks” to NBC’s animated comedy, “God, the Devil and Bob.”
(KSL also does not air NBC’s “Saturday Night Live.” Torsak insisted that was a “revenue decision” made when KSL became the NBC affiliate in the market; the station was already airing a lucrative local sports program in the timeslot, she said.)
“While we are disappointed with KSL’s decision, we are confident that the show will find another home in the Salt Lake City market,” NBC said Monday in a statement.
If you’re a gambling man, put your money on the CW station in that market, KUCW, which seems to be NBC’s go-to station when KSL pre-empts its programming. Most recently, NBC’s coverage of the French Open was moved to KUCW when KSL pre-empted it for the Children’s Miracle Network telethon.
Salt Lake City is the country’s 33rd largest TV market (FYI, Washington D.C. market is ranked No. 9).
In its newscast item Monday morning, announcing its decision not to air “The Playboy Club,” KSL noted its parent company is a sponsor of an Out in the Light Campaign, “which seeks to educate people on problems associated with viewing sexually explicit material.”
In that campaign, the company is partnered with a group called Utah Coalition Against Pornography. The chairwoman of the Utah Coalition Against Pornography, Pamela Atkinson, noted in a guest editorial on KSL, that “On television, in movie theaters, in music, on the internet, virtually everywhere - you can find an outlet for material which we find pornographic, or at least, objectionable.”
“There is a growing body of research that shows exposure to such material indeed leads to many personal and social problems,” Atkinson continued.
Here’s a quick look at “The Playboy Club”