It's All in the Family Hour

This fall on Monday nights, NBC will offer four racy, idiotic female-oriented sitcoms. Adults seeking intellectual stimulation are advised to turn to ABC's "Monday Night Football" instead. And children should be forbidden from watching the Nothing But Coitus network altogether.

Look at what NBC will air in the family hour alone. At 8 o'clock Eastern and Pacific, there's the second-year Brooke Shields vehicle, "Suddenly Susan." Not so long ago, Ms. Shields was practically the Miss Chastity of show business, speaking out against abortion and in favor of premarital virginity. But any hope that her show would endorse - heck, even touch-traditional morality was dashed well before its first season ended.

"Susan" was pretty steamy even for its original 9:30 time slot. In a January episode, Vicki and Todd, Susan's colleagues at a magazine, spend the night together; in the world of television, where everything is an open discussion, Vicki describes (to a male co-worker, no less) the night as "the best sex I ever had. He did have this one move. It was like something out of Cirque du Soleil." (Incidentally, Bob Dole, who once flayed Hollywood for its promotion of "loveless sex," had a cameo in this episode.)

At midseason Susan was moved into the 8:30 family hour timeslot just as the series was going into high gear. In the March 13 installment, Susan sleeps with Adam, whom she's known for one week. During their postcoital pillow talk, she comments that she "always felt it was important to let a relationship grow... so that the [sex], when it does arrive, is that much more special." Laughing, she adds, "I guess I was wrong."

This affair ends during the March 27 episode (she catches him in bed with his ex-wife) and Susan wonders why women go through so many men before finding a suitable one. Her grandmother provides the silver lining-"All that practice makes you better in the sack"-to which Susan provides the yuk-yuk punchline, declaring that she "definitely got practice" with Adam.

The writers are on a roll. What follows makes the Susan-Adam shackup look like true love by comparison. On April 17, the staff goes on a retreat to a remote cabin where, wouldntchaknow, Vicki spends the night with a forest ranger ("Someone's campfire could use a little more wood," she says to him in bed); her co-worker Luis has sex with two women after he enters their recreational vehicle to fix the hot tub.

But unlimited, permissive sex is not complete without homosexuality. A week later, Luis's brother admits he's gay. Forced to confront the issue, Luis first expresses close-minded intolerance ("I don't like [homosexuality]. Maybe that makes me old-fashioned, or small-minded, or a terrible person, but you know what? I can't help it") but by show's end has learned the evil of his own ways ("I never said I couldn't accept it. I just can't do it in one day").

Mondays at 8:30, NBC will present "Fired Up," which debuted in April. It features two female roommates (thirtyish Gwen, twentyish Terry) trying to start a public-relations firm. Entrepreneurialism is not the theme; sex is. Sex is the only theme for NBC these days. In the May 8 installment, the women banter lasciviously about a handsome client. "I'd like to crunch his numbers," asserts Terry. Gwen adds, "I'd like to check out his bottom line?I'd like to see him naked - I thought I'd cut to the chase."

Terry's brother lives with these women, so he's got to get in the act, too. In the May 15 episode, he's having noisy late-night sex (yuk-yuk) with his girlfriend, Gwen yells at them to keep it down, the girlfriend answers, "I don't think that's possible." (Double yuk-yuk.) But why stop there with such masterful humor? Gwen tells Terry, "You know how people are when they're having sex. Everything is a double entendre, especially words like 'down,' 'up,' 'in,' 'out.' [Those two] gave me such a hard time." Terry giggles and answers, Beavis and Butt-head-style, "You said 'hard.'"

Family values, NBC style.

There's more NBC raunch Monday after 9 p.m. ("Caroline in the City" and "The Naked Truth") but there's no reason to discuss it, is there? Sad, isn't it, that this titillation is common on shows meant to appeal to women, who supposedly are more refined than men about sex.