Brought to you by the Parents Television
Summer Brings Little Fun to
BY CHRISTOPHER GILDEMEISTER
With the doldrums of the summer season, the
broadcast networks have filled the vast majority of their prime-time schedule
with reruns. This was particularly evident in the past week. Even the little
original programming the networks did show was questionable as regards its
appropriateness for children. In the heat of summer, children often want to stay
inside and watch TV even more than at other times of the year; yet the networks
apparently felt little need to air shows tailored for a youthful audience.
On Tuesday, June 17th the Fox
network subjected children to its prurient game show The Moment of Truth,
during which a woman was asked such personally invasive questions as whether she
would act in a pornographic movie and whether she has shared details of her
current sex life with a former boyfriend. This program was followed by the
appropriately-named Hell’s Kitchen, which unleashed a blizzard of f-bombs
on impressionable youngsters in the audience. Lest those unfamiliar with
Hell’s Kitchen think this an exaggeration, here is an actual piece of
dialogue from the program, in which foul-mouthed chef Gordon Ramsay burns his
hand on a cooking pot:
“Ahh! (bleeped f***)! (bleeped f***)! (bleeped
f***)! Don't stop and look stupid like some thick cow! (bleeped f***)! (bleeped
f***)! Christina, the handle was over the flame! When the (bleeped f******)
handle’s over the stove, please say something to somebody, yes? Now you're just
acting like a (bleeped f******) idiot, yes? Look at me, I am (bleeped f******)
serious now. If a handle is over the (bleeped f******) flame, say something to
somebody, will you please? One more time and you’re (bleeped f******) finished.
(bleeped f***)! Again! (bleeped f***)! I'm getting (bleeped f******) burned
again! Christina! I've had enough! (bleeped f***)! I've burned my hand!
(bleeped f***)! (bleeped f***)! (bleeped f***)! I'm getting (bleeped f******)
burned again! (bleeped f***)!”
Clearly, Ramsay’s culinary brilliance does not
extend to his vocabulary; but how many children, hearing this (even in its
bleeped form) will gain the impression that such vulgar language is the norm?
Meanwhile, CBS filled out its schedule
with awards programs – in addition to its sex-and-drug series Swingtown.
While the awards programs were of course nowhere near as offensive as
Swingtown (which has
previously been discussed in this column…and undoubtedly will be again),
nevertheless there were some questionable choices involved. The
American Film Institute’s special
selected the top ten films in various genres; there were many overtly bloody and
violent scenes during the program’s discussion of Westerns, while the “romantic
comedy” genre featured a clip from When Harry Met Sally in which Meg Ryan
simulates orgasm. This is unfortunate in that a program which showed clips from
many famous films could have made for ideal family viewing; but the AFI selected
clips which many parents would object to their children seeing.
But it was NBC which failed children and
families the most in past weeks. NBC should be the best network for
families, with its heavy slate of original talent-show programming; but while
the programs’ premises are excellent, what actually airs contains material some
parents would find objectionable.
A mild example of this was the Tuesday, June 16th
episode of Nashville Star, which offers several aspiring country singers
a chance at the big time. In format the program is similar to that of
American Idol, even down to the banter between judges; however, on
Nashville Star, that banter often seems to go a bit over the edge of
appropriateness where younger viewers are concerned. In this episode, one judge
criticized a contestant, then implied an improper relationship between the
contestant and judge Jewel, saying, “I don't know if you mentored this kid or
you made out with him for thirty minutes.” And later in the episode, judge
Jeffrey Steele mocked contestant Tommy’s choice of song with the repeated words,
“You are such a kiss-ass. I gotta say it again, you are such a kiss-ass…He's
kissing your ass.” While such language is increasingly common both in music and
in movies, many parents would consider it inappropriate for their children.
NBC continued its trend on Wednesday, June 18th’s
episode of Celebrity Circus. In addition to some inappropriate language
(and when did it become mandatory for every program in prime time to use words
like “damn,” “hell” and “ass,” anyway?), the program also featured a segment in
which former Brady Bunch star Christopher Knight sets himself on fire,
goaded on by a clown who tells him, “I thought what we'd do, we take a stick of
dynamite, light it, hand it to you, you stick it down your pants and blow your
crotch out.” Knight did so, then sat on a burning bench. While fire-eating
clowns are a traditional part of a circus, explosives down the pants are a new
wrinkle…and one most parents probably wouldn’t appreciate their children seeing.
But the most egregious error on the part of NBC
came during the Tuesday June17th America’s Got Talent. In addition to a
veritable burlesque striptease by the “Slippery Kittens,” viewers were also
confronted with Britney Spears impersonator Derek Barry, whose act drew the
following commentary from judge David Hasselhoff: “I'm questioning my sexuality
here. You’re hot! But you’re the wrong sex.” This episode, incidentally, was
rated TV-14 L. What a sad commentary it is that NBC is incapable of producing
even talent shows and circus programs that are suitable for children to watch.
But ultimately, it is not the fault of NBC
alone. For years, prime-time entertainment has slipped, bit by bit, down the
slippery slope – a dirty word becoming commonplace here, lewd sex jokes going
unremarked there, more violence being accepted everywhere – with the result that
today, even in prime time on the airwaves owned by us all, practically nothing
is totally free of unsavory content.
That this has happened is not only sad for our
children; it is sad for us all.
This column was compiled from reports by the Parents
Television Council’s Analysis staff.