By Aria Lev
Baltimore Sun, March 1, 1999

He's made headlines in recent weeks for declaring that the Antichrist is Jewish and "Teletubbies" plushie Tinky Winky is homosexual. Now, Moral Majority founder and self-appointed media watchdog Jerry Falwell has gone after what was once dubbed by fans "The Best Damned Show on Television"—NBC's Friday-night crime drama "Homicide: Life on the Street."

According to an article to be published next month in National Liberty Journal, the mouthpiece of Falwell's Liberty Federation organization, "Homicide" is "perhaps the most blasphemous, immoral, anti-Christian program currently broadcast on national television."

While "Homicide" has garnered critical raves since its inception, the Liberty Journal is less than impressed. "Look at the characters on this show," Falwell thundered at a Saturday press conference about the upcoming article. "Women, working as homicide detectives? Disgusting. They should all be at home, learning to obey their husbands and love the Lord.

"And then there's that blaspheming Jew," he continued, apparently referring to Detective John Munch (Richard Belzer). "I'd have a whole lot to say about that, let me tell you, if I weren't in so much trouble already."

Falwell had additional harsh words for a recent storyline in which Detective Rene Sheppard (Michael Michele) is overpowered and assaulted by a suspect. The character's repeated subsequent references to her "beatdown," according to the fundamentalist preacher, "are clearly meant to promote the sadomasochistic lifestyle." The character's surname, furthermore, is "a brazen insult to those of us who recognize Our Lord Jesus Christ as the one and only true Shepherd."

Another character to earn the Liberty Journal's wrath is new medical examiner George Griscom (Austin Pendleton), who, in one episode, jokingly asks a lab assistant to fetch him a human heart. "It was bad enough when that Pembleton fellow was on the show, shoving Papist propaganda down the throats of real Christians. Now, we have a character who is clearly a practicing Satanist," Falwell complained. "You know why you never saw Pembleton's baby son on the show last season? Griscom sacrificed him, that's why. It's plain for anyone with true Christian eyes to see."

Falwell also objected vociferously to the seventh season's post-shootout redecoration of the squadroom. "In the first place, redecorating something implies the presence of interior decorators, and I don't have to tell you what shameless, brazen homosexuals they all are," he fumed. "Furthermore, they're redecorating with the color blue? Water is blue. This is a blatant attempt to brainwash the public into believing that so-called 'water sports' [sexual practices involving urination] are acceptable."

Curiously, Falwell did not single out the character Tim Bayliss (Kyle Secor), who is bisexual, for criticism. In fact, Falwell praised the "Homicide" writers for never showing Bayliss dating or being physically affectionate toward another man. "It's scientific fact that uncured homosexuals and so-called bisexuals lead desperately lonely, unhappy lives, and this Bayliss fellow is a fine example of that," Falwell declared. Similarly, the character's embrace of the Buddhist faith, according to Falwell, "offers direct proof that the homosexual lifestyle is antithetical to decent Christian mores."

NBC, for its part, seems decidedly nonplussed by the Liberty Federation's attack. When questioned about "Homicide," new head of programming Scott Sassa looked confused for a few moments, then replied, "Oh, you mean that thing that goes on after 'Dateline.'" He then produced Nielsen data showing that the recent episode "A Case of Do or Die" was viewed by exactly thirty-seven people, half of whom fell asleep before the second commercial break.

"If Tom Fontana has sold 'Homicide' to the devil," Sassa concluded, "it's gotta be the least profitable business transaction in recorded history. Could we talk about 'Providence' now?"

Falwell was unmoved by this reasoning. "Where even one among you are gathered in Satan's name, or something like that, there's problems. I'll get this stinking cesspool of anti-Christian filth cleaned up or off the air if it's the last thing I ever do. And after that, those people on 'Antiques Roadshow' had better start watching their steps."