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TV Trends

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The Fall Season Debacle Begins



On September 1st, the fall TV season got underway…and the broadcast networks wasted no time establishing that their new shows are targeted to the lowest common denominator.


Perhaps hoping to establish a commanding lead with younger viewers while the network’s competitors are still showing reruns and innocuous summer fare, the CW led the charge into the gutter with a one-two punch: graphic teen sex on the PTC’s Worst TV Show of the Week, Gossip Girl and graphic violence and torture on the long-running soap opera One Tree Hill.


In a scene undoubtedly inspired by CBS’ airing of the graphic serial killer drama Dexter, One Tree Hill‘s “crazy nanny” character Carrie first runs over Dan, then holds him hostage in her home and tortures him. As the camera focuses on Dan’s bloody and bruised face, Carrie gloats, “Oh good, you’re awake. I was worried that when I hit you with that car, that I might have killed you. But what fun would that have been?” Carrie heats a fork with a lighter, then dangles the red-hot fork over Dan’s eyeball as she psychotically sings, “Gonna have some hot stuff baby this evening...”  Carrie then places the fork in his hand and closes his fingers around it. Later, she stands over him with a needle, telling him, “Agony for now…but pretty soon, dead.” At the end of the episode she tells Dan, “I’m going to do the world a favor and kill you,” thus preparing a continuing torture scenario which the program can continue to exploit.


Naturally, the premiere episode was also larded with sexual content. Nate comes across his mother topless in her swimming pool. After he demands to know the name of her new boyfriend he leaves – only to have his own friend Skills pop up from underneath the water and kiss her. Apparently those in Hollywood believe that it is common for a man’s best friend to have sex with his mother.


The CW continued its smut parade the next night with the premiere of 90210. A combination spin-off and sequel to the 1990s Fox series Beverly Hills 90210, the new show’s sensibility appears to be inspired far more by the CW’s Gossip Girl…an appearance strengthened by the fact that in its first minutes, 90210 showed Ethan seated in his car receiving oral sex, with humorous music playing as Annie looks on in shock. The episode also introduced Navid’s father, “the biggest producer of X-rated movies in the world,” as the teenaged Navid and his friend Dixon toured a pornographic movie set. Ironically, Navid states that his father’s rule is, “No watching porn until I'm twenty-one;” a rule with which the makers of 90210 apparently do not agree, as their premiere episode sets up a recurring pornography storyline in a program targeted at viewers much younger than 21.


But the CW was not alone in showing family-unfriendly content in prime time. Labor Day saw the season premiere of Fox’s brutal drama Prison Break. In this episode, children in the audience were treated to a flashback of Lincoln finding Sarah's decapitated head in a box; another flashback, in which Sarah relives the torture she endured at Gretchen’s hands, complete with scenes of Gretchen whipping Sarah's back; Gretchen in the present, with a bloody face and chained to a chair, as her captor tells her, “Rise and shine, bitch;” Whistler being shot in the head; and T-Bag beating Sancho over the head with a rock. After Sancho bleeds to death, T-Bag drags Sancho's body to a nearby fire, with the intention of eating it.


At this writing, the fall TV season is less than a week old; yet two of the broadcast networks have already given viewers sex and pornography involving teens, graphic torture and implicit cannibalism. For parents hoping that television will offer a feast of entertainment they will be able to enjoy with their children, the table looks bare indeed.

TV Trends: This column was compiled from reports by the Parents Television Council’s Analysis staff.


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