The controversial ABC police drama "NYPD Blue" debuted Tuesday night to a large national audience - and continued protests from those who call the show "soft-core pornography."
According to ratings in 27 of the 29 markets that have overnight ratings, "Blue" averaged a 20.3 rating and 32 share, 35 percent more viewers than the second half of CBS' movie and 136 percent more than "Dateline NBC."(The numbers do not include Dallas, where the ABC affiliate chose not to air the show, and Boston, where the program was delayed by coverage of local elections.)
Local ABC affiliate KTVX, which has been bombarded with calls, letters and petitions beseeching the station not to air the show, said immediate reaction was overwhelmingly favorable. According to Peter Mathes, KTVX vice president and general manager, Channel 4 received 760 calls following the broadcast - 633 of which were favorable.
KTVX went beyond the warning the network issued just before "NYPD Blue" began. Mathes went on the air himself in brief, taped pieces explaining his decision to air the program. He acknowledged that "the show contains some strong language and adult situations that you may not find suitable viewing for you and your family. We do believe, however, that it is appropriate for the viewers of Utah to have the opportunity to make those kinds of decisions for themselves."
("NYPD Blue" did contain language not normally heard on network television, and brief female nudity.)
The station also inserted local warnings after each commercial break, and Mathes reappeared following the broadcast and repeated the words he'd written that appeared in full-page ads in Utah newspapers on Tuesday, urging viewers to "decide for themselves."
He went on to say that "we hope the opportunity to view tonight's premiere and subsequent episodes of the show will enable you to make an informed decision."
The station plans to continue to air the program for at least several more weeks to allow viewers to make their own judgments.
But those leading the protests against the show vow they won't go away. They're just going to change their tactics.
Maurine Proctor and Debbie Bennion, a pair of homemakers who do not belong to an organized group but have nonetheless marshaled the resources of such groups as the PTA, United Families of Utah, Utah Eagle Forum and Utah Citizens for Decency, have enlisted the support of another of their neighbors, Grant Cannon, co-chairman of the National Academy of Science and former executive director of the Utah Technology Finance Corp.
Together, they are trying to convince local corporations not to advertise on KTVX. Cannon said a preliminary check of advertisers found 40 percent who wouldn't buy spots on "NYPD Blue" and 60 percent who wouldn't advertise on Channel 4, period.
But Mathes said, "We've had some calls, but no one has pulled out yet. At this point we don't know what is going to happen."
The time for the local warnings in Tuesday's premiere of the show came out of KTVX's local advertising time. All the commercials were national advertising from the network.
"There were no local advertisers in there," Mathes said. "We didn't really have anybody who wanted to be in there last night.