Despite pressure from Washington, MTV: Music Television so far has no plans to either cancel or censor its controversial show Jackass,
which last week was blamed for causing a copycat incident that left a young teen with severe burns.
Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) condemned MTV last Monday for running a Jackass
segment that was the inspiration for a 13-year-old Torrington, Conn., youth to have gasoline poured on his legs and then set on fire. The teen, Jason Lind, was imitating a fiery stunt that was recently performed by Johnny Knoxville on Jackass.
Despite the protests from Lieberman, MTV is forging ahead with a second season of the show, which is one of basic cable's highest-rated entertainment series, according to a network spokeswoman.
"We have a new season [of Jackass] coming up," the MTV spokeswoman said. "It launches on Feb. 18." She added that the batch of 16 new episodes would still air at 9 p.m. on Sundays, the show's current time slot.
MTV will continue to review each episode of Jackass
that airs, as it does with all its shows, but there is no plan to tone the series down, the spokeswoman said.
"We're going to look at them and make sure they're good to air," she added. "We do that for everything."
In his statement, Lieberman said he had been contacted by Lind's father and planned to intervene on the Linds' behalf with MTV's parent, Viacom Inc. Viacom officials couldn't be reached for comment.
"It is irresponsible for MTV to air these kinds of stunts on a program clearly popular with young teens and to air it at a time when many of them are likely to be watching," Lieberman said. "MTV is an enormously influential force in the world our children inhabit, and with that power and the right to exercise it comes a certain level or responsibility."
The whole concept behind Jackass
is for Knoxville to perform outrageous, dangerous stunts. In the incident in question, Knoxville donned a fire-resistant suit that had meat on it. He then jumped on top of a lit barbecue grill, and his cohorts fanned its flames by squirting lighter fluid on it.
Lind tried to re-enact the stunt, and wound up in the hospital with second- and third-degree burns.
MTV issued its own statement last week, wishing Lind "a full and speedy recovery." But the network disavowed responsibility for his actions by pointing out that it runs various disclaimers on Jackass
warning viewers not to mimic its antics.
"It is made extremely clear throughout the show, through the use of written and verbal warnings, that none of the stunts featured should be tried at home," MTV said. "The show airs with a TVMA rating."
The on-air warnings state: "The following show features stunts performed by professionals and/or total idiots under very strict control and supervision. MTV and the producers insist that neither you or anyone else attempt to recreate or perform anything you have seen on this show."
However, those disclaimers and Jackass's adult rating don't appease Lieberman, who said MTV shouldn't be let off the hook.
"There are some things that are so potentially dangerous and inciting, particularly to vulnerable children, that they simply should not be put on TV, and this is clearly one that crosses the line," Lieberman said.
He called for MTV to either cancel Jackass,
tone it down or at least air it at a later hour when most children are not watching.
incident marks the second time in recent weeks that Washington has voiced concern over content on cable. (For MTV, it was an unpleasant reminder of two Ohio house fires in 1993 that parents said were set by toddlers inspired by Beavis & Butt-Head
antics.) Following warnings from President Bush, Comedy Central recently said that the First Daughters, Jenna and
Barbara Bush, basically will be off-limits on the new series That's My Bush!.
Comedy Central has come out and said it won't be lambasting the Bush twins on That's My Bush!,
a live-action comedy from South Park
creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker. The show, a satire on American sitcoms that is set in the White House, debuts April 4.
"[Comedy Central president] Larry [Divney] and senior management have some reservations about the twins in general," Comedy Central spokesman Tony Fox said. "Their status as public figures is questionable."
Reports that That's My Bush!
planned to depict the Bush daughters as lesbian lovers first surfaced on the Internet. However, at a recent gathering for TV critics, Stone and Parker said that although one of their writers had suggested the lesbian-lover idea, they had never even decided if it was right to portray the twins at all on That's My Bush!.
"We don't know," Stone said.
When the lesbian-lover rumor hit the Internet, Comedy Central did get a call from one of Viacom's lobbyist asking if the report was true, Fox said.
He noted That's My Bush!
is meant to be a satire on sitcoms, and all their cliched conventions, not a political satire.
"This is not designed to make fun of the President," Fox said. "They [Stone and Parker] have a very rich canvas to work with."