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Cold Case on CBS (9:00 p.m. ET/PT)

Rating: TV-PG DLV


By Katherine Kuhn


What does a TV-PG rating mean?  According to the official TV Parental Guidelines website – describing the ratings created by the entertainment industry itself -- a TV-PG rating means that the content in the show “contains material that parents may find unsuitable for younger children.”  What then does a TV-PG DLV rating mean?  It means that, in addition to some material that may be unsuitable for children, the “program contains one or more of the following: moderate violence (V)…infrequent coarse language (L), or some suggestive dialogue (D).”


So a viewer watching the rerun of Cold Case on August 26, 2007 (originally aired on March 25, 2007) should expect to see only moderate violence, infrequent language and some suggestive dialogue. But what such a viewer actually did see was completely different.


This episode of Cold Case concerns the rape and murder of a young boy in 1987.  At first, the perpetrator is believed to be the boy’s father; but due to tampered evidence, the father is released.  The father then becomes a vigilante and begins murdering any sex offender who may have had a connection to the murder of his son.


The amount of language in this episode would warrant the “L” descriptor on a TV-PG show.  But that is the extent of the correct labeling—and it would only have been correct if that were the only content in this episode.


What needs to be asked is this: does the depiction of multiple dead bodies for extended periods of time constitute only “mild violence?”  This episode of Cold Case had three depictions of murder victims. One showed the raped and murdered boy’s body being found in a construction ditch. The boy’s face is covered with bruises, cuts and dried blood, and the innocent victim is shown to be still sucking his thumb. Another depiction shows the body of a man who had been pushed from the fifth story of a building, dead on the pavement. His hands are bloody and bound, and a pool of blood surrounds his head. Finally, the body of another man, who had been pushed off of a roof and crashed face-first into a car windshield, is shown. His face is bloody and contorted.


How can these graphic depictions plausibly be described as “mild?”


And if that violent content isn’t enough to warrant at least a TV-14 rating, what about this dialogue:


Detective Vera is questioning Ernie, a retired postman who was in the neighborhood the day of the murdered boy’s disappearance:


Vera: "Better start explaining what the hell you were doing on that street delivering mail on a Sunday, Ernie."


Ernie says he sometimes delivered parcels on his days off, and that the address was on his way home.


Scotty: "Only back then you didn't have a record for diddling boys yet."


Ernie then tells the detectives that they can ask whatever questions they wish and put him through tests, but that he did not kill Clay because Clay “wasn’t his type”:


Ernie: "My preference was blonde-haired boys, ages 8-12, slight build, introverted.  I was very specific.”


Since the murdered boy in question did not match Ernie’s “preferences,” Vera sarcastically suggests that the detectives have the wrong suspect.  Ernie states that, through therapy, he has learned to control his urge to have sex with young boys.


Ernie: "I love children.  Guy who killed that boy was an amateur, worried about getting caught."

Vera: "An amateur?"

Ernie: "If a boy's properly groomed you don't worry about them telling anyone.  They give you...consent."

Scotty: "Consent?  A child can't give an adult consent!"

Ernie: "Someday society will come around to accept it."


How can discussion of “consensual” molestation and rape be appropriate for children -- even with parental guidance?  The TV-PG DLV rating given to this episode outrageously suggests that dialogue condoning the sexual assault of children is appropriate for children to hear! 


There is nothing suitable for children in the above dialogue, the dialogue that came before or after this scene, or in the violent depictions.  The content in this episode of Cold Case is in no way appropriate for children, with or without parental guidance. The rating should have reflected the program’s content more accurately. 


If you agree that this program was inadequately rated, please write to the TV ratings advisory board at tvomb@usa.net and let them know that the TV ratings once again failed to adequately warn parents about inappropriate content.    


For more information about the TV ratings, please visit http://www.tvguidelines.org/contact.asp


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