Support Our Work File an FCC Complaint Movie Reviews Join Us Family Guide to Primetime Television Home
Parents Television Council - Because Our Children Are Watching


1%-5% of your purchase will help support the PTC.

TV Trends

Brought to you by the Parents Television Council

Bloody Monday Nights: Fox’s Violent One-Two Punch

By Christopher Gildemeister


The Fox network presents a study in contrasts as regards family-friendly programming. The Family Hour (8:00 p.m. ET/PT, 7:00 p.m. CT/MT) Tuesday and Wednesday nights now feature the newly-returned seventh season of television’s monster hit American Idol – a simple, enjoyable talent show generally suitable for the entire family. Idol has taken steps to redeem this season after being criticized in the past for focusing too much on the obviously unqualified contestants and judge Simon Cowell’s abrasive commentary . Similarly, the Thursday night schedule features the light-hearted and charming game shows Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? and Don’t Forget the Lyrics, both of which have frequently been chosen as the PTC’s Best TV Show of the Week.  And on early Sunday evenings the network is often home to football games.  At these times, parents seeking entertainment safe and suitable for the entire family couldn’t do better than tune into Fox.


But the rest of the time, they couldn’t possibly do worse. On the same nights that American Idol airs, Fox also features the gruesome and graphic forensic crime program Bones and the often sexually-charged medical drama House. The timing of these programs varies; sometimes they have been aired after Idol, and at other times before it. On Saturday the network airs the long-running reality programs Cops and America’s Most Wanted. While these do not sink to the levels of many scripted crime dramas, neither would most parents find them appropriate for young children. And at 9:00 p.m. ET Sunday nights, Fox tops off its parade of perverse programming with Seth MacFarlane’s twin titans of trashy TV, Family Guy and American Dad.


And now, concerned parents can add Monday nights to the list. At 8:00 p.m. ET, in what was once considered the Family Hour, Fox shows the brutal drama Prison Break. While the program has always focused on the seamy and violent world behind bars, this season’s episodes have positively wallowed in savage violence, with a particular emphasis on torture. For example, in the January 14th episode viewers saw the innocent Michael confined to a sweatbox; inmate Whistler tied up and roughly interrogated; and, most disturbingly of all, the character Gretchen is strapped to a chair and waterboarded  --  plastic wrap is stretched over her face and a hose is turned on her, thus simulating drowning.  As Gretchen thrashes about in agony, Michael and Whistler are forced to listen to the torture. (Perhaps Fox feels that, with 24’s strike-imposed hiatus, Prison Break must keep up Fox’s tradition of depicting vicious torture.)  Additionally, viewers saw Gretchen stabbing, kicking and shooting a man dead;  prisoners Octavio and Bellick fighting in a barbarous boxing match to the death, with Bellick hitting Octavio in the face, then in the groin, their inmate audience cheering as Octavio falls to the ground with a blood-covered face, apparently dead; and the sadistic T Bag kicking the drug-addicted Mahone while saying, "When you're up all night and diarrhea is running down both your legs and vomit is in your hair, don't come crawling back." While all of this may constitute a genuine portrayal of life in a South American prison, the relentlessly depressing emphasis on torture and brutality is not one to which most parents would like their young children exposed.


And the situation does not improve at 9:00 p.m. ET, now home to the new, ultra-violent science-fiction drama Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. While it would not be realistic to expect a program based on the Terminator movie franchise to be a gentle, harmless fantasy program – each of the Terminator movies was rated R, and featured prodigious amounts of graphic violence and profanity – yet neither was it necessary for the Sarah Connor spin-off to be as extreme as it was.


In the first moments of the new program’s special premiere episode – which Fox considerately aired on a Sunday, January 13th in the 8:00 p.m. ET Family Hour -- police aim their pistols at Sarah and her teenage son John, pushing them into police cars; Sarah punches a policeman in the back seat of the squad car, apparently breaking his nose; a Terminator cyborg pulls a sawed-off shotgun from his jacket and begins shooting into the car, it being clear from the mayhem that police officers have been killed; Sarah grabs an officer’s gun and shoots the cyborg, and then screams as the cyborg guns down John, whose body sprawls on the pavement with a bloody chest wound. The entire scene proves to be a dream; but this would be little consolation to a horrified child who inadvertently witnessed the scene.


Nor did things improve in the rest of the episode. Prominently featured was a school shooting, during which the cyborg (posing as a teacher) bloodily slits his own leg open with a letter opener, pulls a pistol out of the wound and graphically guns down an entire class of high-school children. John flees and is cornered by the cyborg, but is saved when the Terminator is hit square-on by a pickup truck, driven by a good cyborg. The two robots in human flesh engage in multiple hyper-violent battles, choking and beating one another, throwing each other through walls, shooting and electrocuting one another, and the like.


The successive episode, on Monday, January 14th at 9:00 p.m. (the program’s regular time) dished out more of the same, with more hard-core fighting between the good and bad Terminators, and more guns blazing and other violence on the part of Sarah. For novelty, this time she runs over a Terminator with a stolen motorcycle, after threatening its owner with death; but so as not to disappoint fans, this time the good Terminator is hit by a car, her head sticking through the shattered windshield. The episode ends with a truly gruesome depiction of the evil Terminator’s robot body walking about, with a severed human head placed atop its torso as a disguise.


And so, parents now have one more night of the week during which they must beware of the Fox network’s propensity for violence. It is a pity that Fox, or another broadcast network, does not take advantage of its prime-time opportunity to provide safe, family-friendly programming every night of the week…because there is a huge, untapped – and increasingly frustrated -- audience hungering for it.

Caroline Schulenburg contributed to this report.

Click Here to Comment on this Column

The Parents Television Council - www.parentstv.org


TV Trends Archive





JOIN US ON:          .

Parents Television Council, www.parentstv.org, PTC, Clean Up TV Now, Because our children are watching, The nation's most influential advocacy organization, Protecting children against sex, violence and profanity in entertainment, Parents Television Council Seal of Approval, and Family Guide to Prime Time Television are trademarks of the Parents Television Council.