It’s an increasingly common gimmick in television: A character appears nude on the small screen, with his or her private bits pixelated or blurred out, reports T.L. Stanley in the Los Angeles Times.
The technique first came into use on TV news, documentaries and reality programs, to blur product placements or human faces for privacy reasons, the story notes.
"But now television writers are using the tactic as a sight gag and a way to attract attention, in much the same way that scripted programming commonly bleeps out censored language," Stanley writes.
Recent examples include Krysten Ritter of ABC’s "Don’t Trust the B—- in Apt. 23," who chatted in the nude, and Ashton Kutcher of CBS’s "Two and a Half Men," who greeted visitors unclothed.
The stars are almost never actually naked; instead, they are wearing bodysuits or swimsuits that can be erased with the special effect, the piece notes.
During the 2011-12 season, television shows included 64 instances of full frontal nudity on the major networks, compared with just one in the 2010-11 season, according to the article, which cites the Parents Television Council. About 74% of nudity is covered up via blurring and pixelization, rather than use of black bars.
"Though the nudity is usually phony, this use of pixelization pokes at the standards of what is considered decent and underscores a larger debate about what should be allowed on television," the story notes.
"[N]etworks, locked in a battle for viewers with more permissive basic and premium cable channels, have been pushing for more latitude to air edgy programming," it continues.
The effect is "unfortunate, unnecessary and offensive to the family audience," said PTC President Tim Winter. He noted that it was used more frequently between 7 and 9 p.m., when more children might be sitting in front of the TV, than in shows airing after 10 p.m., the article notes.
"The blur gives you a different impact visually, and the person appears to be completely nude," Winter said. "That’s a huge leap from where we’ve ever been on broadcast TV before."