by A.J. Jacobs

    Forget all that hubbub over TV's sex and violence. There's a far more disturbing trend in prime time these days--namely strong peeing content, excessive pooping, and graphic flushing.

    Talk about a vast wasteland: TV shows seem to spend more time in the can than your great uncle after a pitcher of prune juice.

    It's not just Comedy Central's raunchy South Park, with its infamous flaming flatulence and fecal Yule log. Bathroom scenes have stunk up such shows as Spin City, NYPD Blue, The Drew Carey Show, King of the Hill, and Veronica's Closet. On The WB's Dawson's Creek, we recently got treated to the sight of those handsome boys relieving themselves side by side at the urinals. Seinfeld's George Costanza has gastrointestinal issues up the wazoo. And producer du jour David E. Kelley seems particularly stuck in the anal phase: He has made us suffer through the coed stalls of Fox's Ally McBeal and a recent subplot on ABC's The Practice about "three-flush floaties." (Don't ask.) Give it a couple more years, and we'll be watching Potty of Five. Or maybe Colon in the City.

    Call me an old fart (sorry), but whatever happened to red-blooded puritanical repression? I miss the halcyon days when NBC censored Jack Paar for referring to a water closet on The Tonight Show. In decades past, the most we had to tolerate was the occasional faraway flush from Archie Bunker.

    "This is part of the inexorable trend toward showing the full range of humanity," says Dr. Will Miller, a psychologist who analyzes TV for a living. Yes, it's tres verite--people do go to the bathroom in real life. But people also pick their noses and listen to Enya--and I don't need to watch them do it, especially when I'm trying to eat my Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. Or, in the wise words of Dr. Miller, "I know Carol Brady probably passed gas, but that's not something I want to be privy to."