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KSL won't air 'The Playboy Club' but will continue to air shows that are even more adult

Published June 13, 2011 5:23 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Hypocrisy, thy name is KSL.

Not that this is anything new. The network programs that Channel 5 has chosen not to air in the 21 years I've covered television in the Salt Lake market have been, well, interesting. Particularly light of the ones the station has aired without flinching.

This was true when it was a CBS affiliate; it remains true since it joined NBC.

Predictably, KSL has announced that it won't air the new NBC series "The Playboy Club" this fall. Not because of anything in the show, but because of the title.

Mark Willes, president and CEO of Deseret Media Companies - the parent company of KSL - said exactly that.

"We've only seen pilots for this and other upcoming NBC shows, so comparing the content of these shows might be difficult at this stage," Willes told the Deseret News, another DMC company. "'The Playboy Club' is different in our view in at least one important way, however: It promotes a brand that we just cannot support.

"We would be helping to build a brand that stands for pornography. For us, that's just untenable."

To be clear, KSL can do whatever it wants. It owns the broadcast license and has every right to make this kind of decision. It's an obligation too few stations take seriously.

But this is a move that just screams hypocrisy. I have actually seen "The Playboy Club" pilot. It's not lascivious or lewd. Essentially, it's a crime drama set in the early 1960s. The characters either work at or belong to the Playboy Club in Chicago.

There's no nudity. The bunny costumes are of the period - meaning they're considerably more conservative than a lot of the dresses that a lot of actresses wear in a lot of other NBC shows.

"The Playboy Club" is clearly not for kids. But KSL airs plenty of shows that aren't for kids.

I can say without hesitation that every episode of "Law & Order: SVU" is more "adult" than the pilot of "The Playboy Club." And KSL has aired almost 300 episodes of that show.

While not visually graphic, "Will & Grace" never met a dirty joke it didn't like. And KSL aired nearly 200 episodes of that show.

Those are but two examples. Let's look through the list of NBC's prime-time shows and try to find one without adult content. Looking ... looking ... looking ... nope, can't find one. There aren't any.

The obvious message KSL is sending is - we don't care if a show is adult as long as it doesn't have the word "Playboy" in the title. And if this one had been called, "The Gentleman's Club" and didn't have the bunny ears and tails, it would be airing on Ch. 5 this fall.

KSL can do what it likes. NBC is not happy about this, but it will be up to the network to decide how to deal with its affiliate.

Clearly, NBC will shop "The Playboy Club" to another local station.

(FYI: I thought the pilot was OK, but nothing great.)

Just as clearly, this is going to happen again with other shows. With more and more shows as time goes by and new owner Comcast tries to rebuild NBC's schedule.

So if KSL, DMC and their owners, the LDS Church, want to be consistent, there are two options.

First, give up the NBC affiliation and become an independent station. Which would be tough to pull off economically.

Second, sell the station.

Otherwise, they're taking a stand on a title and ignoring program content altogether.