The latest TV news for the week of March 13, 1998

By Joe Flint
Updated March 13, 1998 at 05:00 AM EST

NAUGHTY BITS Looking for sex? Tune in to ABC. Got a hankering for violence? Check out CBS. In the mood for some old-fashioned vulgarities? Get thee to NBC. That’s what the Media Research Center — a conservative watchdog group that monitors violence, sex, and profanity on television — discovered in a study conducted during last November’s sweeps.

MRC’s latest TV report card is full of eye-opening info. NBC, for example, averages more obscenities during the 8-9 p.m. ”family hour” than any other network. The Peacock’s short-lived Union Square managed to distinguish itself as the only show in the study to use the term ”pissed.”

Overall, the MRC discovered that ”ass” is the curse of choice for writers. Between the weeks of Oct. 30 and Nov. 19, it was used 33 times (and that’s not even counting when it was connected to the word ”hole” on cuss-happy shows such as NYPD Blue and Brooklyn South). ”Bitch” and ”suck” tied for second at 11 times each, while ”bastard” came in a distant third with six usages. Of course, given the wrong context, the ultra-touchy MRC considers ”blow,” ”freakin’,” and ”bites” obscenities as well.

The group’s findings also prove that sex doesn’t always sell. Although ABC averaged the most sexual references during the family hour, that raunchiness didn’t translate to ratings, as the Alphabet’s only November bright spots were the squeaky-clean Cinderella and Oprah Winfrey’s Before Women Had Wings. Conversely, sweeps winner CBS was last in sexual references.

But the Eye is not completely wholesome. CBS ranked as the most violent net, thanks to shows such as JAG (declared the most violent network series). ”Daffy Duck is more violent than JAG,” jabs a CBS spokesman.

The MRC is doubly peeved that the nets don’t seem to be taking the new ratings rules seriously. For example, the group takes ABC to task for allowing an ”ass”-mentioning episode of Dharma & Greg to air without an adult-language advisory.

For their part, the networks fault the group’s findings for not taking context into account: The MRC objected to an Everybody Loves Raymond episode in which Ray yells at a video game, ”Got you, you ugly green bastard.” Come on, not even Ray’s brother, Robert, is that sensitive.

BOTTOMS UP Let’s see Cuba Gooding Jr. top this awards-show moment…. During the February taping of the American Comedy Awards (Fox, March 17), NewsRadio‘s goofball Andy Dick was set to do a cheeky gag in which he’d tear off his clothes and dance around in a diaper with the computer-animated baby from Ally McBeal. But things got a bit too cheeky when Dick ”accidentally” dropped both pants and diaper, leaving him the butt of his own joke. ”I might have let the diaper fall,” he concedes. ”And I fully apologize to anyone who had to look at my body.”

— Dan Snierson

AND SO ON… Ellen’s Jeremy Piven (Spence) and David Anthony Higgins (Joe) are making plans for the future. Piven is set to play the eponymous matchmaker on an ABC sitcom titled Cupid. And Higgins just signed a deal with The WB for a Beetle Bailey-esque army comedy.