Brought to you by the Parents Television
The Fall Season Debacle Begins
BY CHRISTOPHER GILDEMEISTER
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
This column was compiled from reports by the Parents
Television Council’s Analysis staff.