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So You Think You Can Rate a TV Show?

Brought to you by the Parents Television Council

So You Think You Can Rate a TV Show? is a PTC column which closely compares the content of an individual program with the rating that episode received. Because the V-Chip and other blocking technologies depend upon TV’s program ratings – ratings assigned by the networks themselves – to block offensive shows, if the rating does not reflect the program’s true content much objectionable content will slip through and may be seen by children, even if the V-Chip is properly programmed and used. This column documents blatant instances of program mis-rating by the TV networks.

To view our TV Ratings Guide click here.



PTC Analysis

The Walking Dead on AMC



This ultra-violent program, which features decapitation, gore, and unbleeped s-words, is considered appropriate for teens.

Here Come the Newlyweds on ABC



Because of the sheer frequency of sexual content, this episode should have been rated TV-14 DL.

Castle on ABC



Most parents wouldn’t consider ritualistic murder and raucous sex appropriate entertainment for children – but ABC thinks they should be rated PG.

Howie Do It on NBC



After luring viewers with a supposedly harmless premise, complete with a host who has a proven record of family-friendly programming, NBC pulls the rug out from under viewers with foul language, sexual content and incorrect ratings.

Chuck on NBC



Despite the episode’s PG rating, it was rife with adult content.

True Beauty on ABC



This tawdry program was rated TV-14 L. However, an episode featuring obscured nudity and a lap dance warrants an ‘S’ descriptor. A proper rating for this show would have been TV-14 LS.

Gossip Girl on CW



The number and nature of sexual scenes in this episode certainly warranted an ‘S’ descriptor.

Flashpoint on CBS



This episode only received a TV-PG DV rating which implies moderate violence (V) but included a graphic and animalistic attack committed by children, on children and concluded with one child shooting others.

Baby Borrowers on NBC





During this episode the teens were shown using bleeped foul language but no ratings descriptor was used.

Big Brother 10 on CBS





Given the frequency and severity of the swearing, the show should have been rated TV-14 L but there were no ratings at all!

Big Brother 10 on CBS

The episode was rated TV-PG L with no content descriptor for the sexual content contained in the episode.

AFI’s 10 Top 10 on CBS

Due to the number and graphic nature of the violent clips shown, and the sexual content of other clips, this show should have been rated TV-14 LVS.

Women’s Murder Club on ABC

This episode had no v descriptor for violent content but depicted a blood-spattered dead body, a shooting scene, and a seriously injured reporter.

Grey's Anatomy on ABC

This episode was rated PG-14 with no content descriptors despite the foul language littered throughout the episode.

Dancing With the Stars on ABC

The episode that aired on April 7th at 8:00 p.m. ET contained a reference to pornography and a bleeped expletive, yet was only rated TV PG.

Family Guy on Fox

The episode of Family Guy was rated TV14 D V L, contained a significant amount of sexual dialogue and several sexual depictions, yet failed to carry an S-descriptor indicating sexual content – an indicator which would enable parents to block sexually explicit material from entering their homes. 

Keeping Up With the Kardashians on E!

This episode contained sexual dialogue including discussions about sex toys, menstruation and the facts of life -- yet was only rated TV14 L.

Just for Laughs on ABC

On March 4th, 2008 at 8:00 p.m., when Just for Laughs was rated TV-PG but contained a significant amount of obscured nudity.

Law & Order on NBC

The episode that aired on February 27th at 10:00 p.m. ET was rated TV-14 DL despite containing several graphic depictions of a murder victim and detailed discussions of her horrifying death.

Law & Order on NBC

The episode titled “Executioner,” airing February 20th, 2008, was rated TV-14 with no “S” or “D” descriptors despite containing a sex scene and references to extramarital affairs.

Jericho on CBS

The episode that aired on February 12th was rated TV-PG L, suggesting that this program is suitable most children and doesn’t contain any violence worth mentioning.

1 Vs. 100 on NBC

The February 8th episode of 1 vs. 100 (8:00 p.m. ET), though only rated PG, featured sexual innuendo inappropriate for the Family Hour, and particularly for young children.

Cashmere Mafia on ABC

A rating of TV-PG DL suggests that parents might not want to their young children to be exposed to some bad language and sexual dialogue, but ABC seems to believe that children are mature enough to handle the themes of adultery and promiscuity, as well as the depictions of semi-nude women, that dominated this episode.

Carpoolers on ABC

Most people would reasonably assume that a television program rated TV- PG DL does not contain sexual content, certainly not protracted jokes about pornography and sexual harassment. But most people would be wrong – at least, according to the ABC network.

American Dad on Fox

The episode, in which Stan promises to introduce his son to a centerfold, also contained other sexual situations and dialogue, but was not flagged for sexual content.

October Road on ABC

This episode was rated TV-PG with descriptors for sex and violence, but the sexual content would certainly have warranted a higher rating.

American Dad on Fox

The episode of American Dad that aired on Sunday, December 16th contained gun violence but nothing that would allow parents to protect their children from such casual depictions of use of the weapon.

Las Vegas on NBC

This episode delivered offensive sexual content without its rating being flagged with an S-descriptor indicating depictions of Sex.

Bones on Fox

This episode of Bones was rated TV14 DL. No V descriptor indicating violent content was present in the show’s rating, despite the fact that the episode contained several gruesome depictions of a department store Santa Claus brutally murdered and left to rot in a sewer.

American Dad on Fox

The November 18th episode of Fox’s vile American Dad, featured multiple “humorous” references to child molestation, as well as other sexual innuendo. Yet the rating did not include “sex” or “suggestive dialogue” descriptors.

Supernatural on CW

What age does the CW network consider appropriate for this bloody, dark, occult-themed mayhem? Why, seven and up, of course.

Dirty Sexy Money on ABC

Should adulterous oral sex with a transsexual be rated PG? ABC thinks so.

Ugly Betty on ABC

The October 25th episode of Ugly Betty featured multiple crassly sexualized scenes filled with lewd innuendo, the most blatant coming even before the opening credits had aired

Moonlight on CBS

The October 12th episode of Moonlight featured graphic levels of bloodshed and gore certainly deserving of a TV-14 rating.

Boston Legal on ABC

The PG rating suggests that the discussion of rape and murder found in this episode is suitable for children of all ages—as long as a parent is present. Do you agree with this rating?

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit on NBC

With a TV-14 rating, a parent does not expect a scene of a rape, and then an intense discussion of the rape—all before the first commercial.

Private Practice on ABC

According to ABC, discussion about sperm, is not “intense” enough to warrant the “D” descriptor, indicating sexual dialogue, in the episode’s rating.

2007 Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards on E!

There is no “L” descriptor that would indicate to parents the litany of foul language on the program.

Family Guy on Fox

The program had content that would have warranted all four descriptors -- but only received two.

The Hills on MTV

There were no ratings descriptors to warn parents about or to prevent children from hearing the harsh language used in this episode.

Cold Case on CBS

The rating descriptors V, L, and D paired with a TV-PG rating suggest that this episode includes moderate violence (V) infrequent coarse language (L), and some suggestive dialogue (D). But the content in this episode was anything but moderate.

The Knights of Prosperity on ABC

This episode should have been rated TV-14 for its intense discussion of promiscuous sexual behavior.

Law & Order: SVU on NBC

There are no descriptors to warn parents of the content that is in this episode.

Greek on ABC

Sexual content and dialogue in this episode are not appropriate for children under 13.

Damages on MyNetworkTV

Compared to the original FX version, this was very similar in content. The edits made for broadcast television were minimal.

Greek on ABC

No content descriptors for sex or dialogue.


So You Think You Can Rate a TV Show

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