TV starts promoting public sex, and other news

HAILING HAIL It started with that infernal flying cow. After Twister blew away the competition with a $242 million take at the domestic box office, Hollywood discovered a new lethal weapon, and it wasn’t Mel Gibson. The doom machine of choice: the weather. After Twister came Hard Rain, featuring out-of-control flooding, and now, Deep Impact, with its apocalyptic tidal wave. Come August, the forecast gets even grimmer, as Sean Connery tries to rule the world’s climate in The Avengers. And the word online is that Spike Lee may produce a 007-style script featuring weather-wielding baddies. (Lee has no comment.) Can we chalk all this up to El Niño-phobia? Stu Ostro, meteorology supervisor at The Weather Channel, thinks filmmakers have tapped into a general ”hidden interest in weather.” Like sports, says Ostro, weather has fans: ”You’re seeing this stuff because the people making the movies know it sells.” But while filmmakers may have identified a new audience, Ostro says the concept of world domination via weather is, well, just Hollywood. ”Folks who believe this could happen are pretty much psychotic,” he says. ”This is not a meteorological reality.”

CIVIC UNDRESS See what Viagra has wrought? Recently, a number of TV shows have featured the same hot-and-heavy premise — couples spicing up their sex lives by indulging their passions in public. First, Dharma and Greg got it on alfresco in San Francisco’s Ghirardelli Square (their rationale: Everybody else was home watching the final episode of Seinfeld). Then Ally McBeal and The Simpsons both ended the season with a, ahem, bang: Georgia and Billy buffed the law firm’s conference table on Ally, and Homer and Marge turned Springfield into a sexual playground on The Simpsons. What’s with all the public nooky? ”We like to peep,” says psychologist Joyce Brothers. Besides, ”cable can get away with so much, so here is something network TV can get away with.” True, but Simpsons exec story editor Matt Selman says it was just a way of exploring a new side to the characters. ”Marge’s ass had never been on TV before,” he notes, ”and now it has.”

ETC. Hold your horses! That’s what national syndicators and Studio USA, owners of the Jerry Springer Show, decided to do, pulling at the 11th hour a way-too-hot-for-TV episode that featured — yikes! — bestiality. Titled ”I Married a Horse,” the show, which was originally scheduled to air nationwide May 22, told the story of a gentleman who married his equine companion. (Anticipating a ruckus, Springer producers also sent affiliates an alternate episode, ”Past Guests Do Battle.”) According to a Springer source, there was ”absolutely nothing graphic” on the show, though it did feature an appearance by the beloved horse in question. A spokeswoman would not say why the show was nixed, and the usually outspoken master of trash talk declined to comment.