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In any event, Moonves and Zucker say they're not basing future programming decisions on the volatile national mood, tempting as it is to make facile, sweeping attributions of every new cultural, social or meteorological event to Sept. 11. (Why was ABC's Victoria's Secret Fashion Show a hit? Clearly, in these anxious times, men want to gawk at models in push-up bras, out of...um...a longing for maternal comfort! Yeah, that's it!) The Burnett special and JAG might hint that viewers are turning to more wholesome fare. But on Friends, Jennifer Aniston's Rachel is unashamedly having a baby out of wedlock, and even on the more traditional family sitcom Raymond, a recent episode centered on the title character's chagrin after his mother gives him an abstract sculpture that, unbeknown to her, looks like a vagina. One could say the public is escaping to frothy entertainment, but that observation disregards the success of The West Wing and Law & Order and implies that in peacetime we were watching Frontline by the millions. The cutthroat Survivor has dipped, which suggests no one wants meanspirited fare--except that Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, once touted as Survivor's good-hearted opposite, has collapsed far worse.
Whatever the reason, these are boon times for the show that was uncool when uncool wasn't cool. And as JAG proves it can be relevant to new fans who have never smelled gunpowder, the writers plan to start referencing the war more directly. In an upcoming episode, Harm investigates an accident on an aircraft carrier and finds that it resulted from strains on the system caused by the fighting in Afghanistan. However unfortunate the reasons for the new surfeit of material, says Bellisario, there's only one drawback from a storytelling perspective. "By the time it airs," he points out, "we may have to change it to Iraq."
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