So You Think You Can Rate a TV Show?
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Cold Case on CBS (9:00
Rating: TV-PG DLV
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
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
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
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
Ernie says he
sometimes delivered parcels on his days off, and that the address was on his way
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”:
preference was blonde-haired boys, ages 8-12, slight build, introverted. I was
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
Vera: "An amateur?"
Ernie: "If a boy's
properly groomed you don't worry about them telling anyone. They give
A child can't give an adult consent!"
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
If you agree that
this program was inadequately rated, please write to the TV ratings advisory
firstname.lastname@example.org and let them know that the TV
ratings once again failed to adequately warn parents about inappropriate
information about the TV ratings, please visit