Ignoring the obvious has become a theme during TCA.

Nudity and near-nudity on non-premium cable have surfaced more than once at TCA. Perhaps it’s related to higher temperatures from global warming. In any case, on Friday VH1 became the latest non-premium network to dangle a naked show in front of TCA critics during the Los Angeles-based summer tour. Joining Discovery’s survival series “Naked & Afraid,” which was presented earlier this week, VH1 offered clips of “Dating Naked” (July 17 premiere), showing a young couple meeting for a first date sans clothing. Later the couple go water skiing wearing only a small life preserver (don’t try that at home). In the case of both shows, network execs swore to critics that after a while, you forget the people on screen are naked. O.K.

Contrast this wink-wink-nod-nod stance with that of TLC’s “Buying Naked,” which premiered last month and derives much of its appeal from enjoying the premise of real estate agents, bankers and mortgage brokers interacting with a bevy of naked home sellers and buyers. Openly camping it up, Buying Naked’s extensive footage of naked homeowners and buyers insures that curb appeal isn’t the only thing enticing about this reality series.

Buying Naked did not present at TCA, adhering to TCA Rule 8.69, which strictly regulates the amount of naked content that any one programmer can present.

A much more subtle approach to the theme of ‘things aren’t what they appear to be’ could be seen in the approach taken by MTV for its “Virgin Territory” (July 16 premiere), whose title is sure to attract viewers. Without the aid of screeners we have to take the word of network reps about this docu-series. Despite the show’s title, MTV positioned the 4-part docu-series as a vehicle for virgins to get some love, er, to receive positive media exposure.

While not claiming the series is a direct response to opinions expressed in a poll it commissioned where young people said virginity lacks positive media, MTV mentioned the poll several times during the panel. Heck, MTV programming chief Susanne Daniels attempted to raise the seriousness of the proceedings by having the CEO of The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, Susan Brown, on the panel. Daniels introduced Brown as “my friend” and someone whom she’s worked with for many years. The MTV exec said she long has felt “a responsibility” to young viewers to provide educational resources, thus her association with Brown. Daniels provided this background when critics scoffed upon learning that Virgin Territory is scheduled to premiere after “Teen Mom.” Brown also came to the rescue on this one, noting a Brookings Institution report showed that MTV series like “Teen Mom” and ‘Pregnant at 16” reduced teen pregnancy by one-third.

And while one panelist promised Virgin Territory viewers will see stories of young people who want to remain virgins until marriage and those who don’t, overall it seems virginity will be presented in a good light. In addition to Brown, the Virgin panel featured three articulate young people speaking truthfully about virginity. As Dominque Sullivan, 22, said, “You can still be sexy and have a good time without having sex.” Another panelist, Lisa Youngerman, said her decision to remain a virgin until marriage was a personal choice she wouldn’t push on others. Of course the serious side of Virgin and MTV’s message generally took a slight hit when Alec Melger, one of the young adults on the panel, told TCA critics he was introduced to sex when he saw a threesome in a bathtub while he was watching MTV. “I thought that was cool,” he said. Melger said he was 9 years old when he saw the good, clean fun on MTV.



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