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PTC's Annual

Top 10 Best & Worst Family Shows on Network Television

1999-2000 TV Season


1)   Touched By An Angel
 (CBS/ranked #2 last season)
Consistently ranked in the Nielsen Top 20, CBS's family
drama about three angels who help mortals on Earth continues to provide pro-family, faith-based entertainment each week. This season's episodes dealt with a wide assortment of difficult issues -- ranging from slavery in the Sudan to religious conflict in Northern Ireland to the dangers of Internet pornography -- with sensitivity and a strong moral sense.

2)  7th Heaven
(WB/ranked #1 last season)
The WB's popular family drama about a mild-mannered
minister and his large family continues to be the highest-rated show on the network. The Camden family forms a strong support system for one another as the teenagers face peer pressure and contend with difficult issues including premarital sex and drug use. The reverend and his wife provide wise counsel along with love and understanding for their brood each week, providing a healthy picture of an American family. 7th Heaven manages to provide moral solutions to tough issues facing teenagers without seeming preachy or heavy-handed. Additionally, unlike most TV series, 7th Heaven shows the consequences of reckless and irresponsible behavior. 

3)  Who Wants to Be a Millionaire
(ABC/first season)
ABC's smash hit Who Wants to Be a Millionaire has
enjoyed sky-high ratings because of its multi-generational appeal. Millionaire combines suspense, competition, and the possibility of great rewards without pitting man against man, as many of its game-show imitators do, and without the foul language, sex, and violence rampant on other, less successful prime time shows. Millionaire also reinforces the value of education.

4) Sabrina the Teenage Witch
(ABC/ranked #7 last season)
continues to be highly popular with adolescent
and pre-adolescent audiences. But the series' popularity need not concern parents. Unlike Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Charmed- all supernatural thrillers aimed at teenage audiences-there are no occult elements or dark themes in Sabrina. Episodes rarely (if ever) contain any material that parents might find objectionable and generally conclude with a lesson or moral that reinforces positive values, such as the importance of honesty, friendship, and hard work. The series will continue next year on the WB as Sabrina heads to college.

5)   Early Edition
(CBS/ranked #5 last season)
Virtues such as heroism and compassion were
celebrated each week on Early Edition. Gary Hobson learned of the day's news before it happens, and rather than use the information for personal gain, he tried to prevent tragedies and help others. Early Edition fostered a sense of community responsibility and never featured gratuitous sex, graphic violence, or foul language. Sadly, Early Edition will not be returning to the CBS line-up next fall.

6)  Moesha
(UPN/ranked #8 last season)
When reports surfaced last fall that Moesha would be
getting more "gritty and topical," many feared this really meant the show would lose its family-friendly focus. Indeed, the plots have featured more adult content, such as the discovery of Frank's previous marital infidelity and the sexual struggles Moesha and her friends are facing at college. However, the series has never lost its focus on a strong family unit, or its emphasis on doing what's right and taking responsibility for one's actions. Moesha remains a strong family show precisely because it demonstrates the love and commitment a family needs to make it through both good times and bad.

7)   Boy Meets World
(ABC/ranked #10 last season)
Although it has contained more sexually suggestive
humor this season than in seasons past, Boy Meets World remained one of the very few series on TV to promote premarital abstinence. Even in its final season, the show was consistent with this standard -- Corey and Topanga waited until after their wedding to consummate their long relationship. Episodes consistently reinforced positive messages, such as the importance of family and the value of education.

8)  Safe Harbor  
(WB/first season)
Although short-lived, the standout moral lessons and
strong parental roles made Safe Harbor one of the most family-friendly series of the season. The father, a widowed sheriff raising his three sons with the help of his mother, was firm but fair and took a strong stance on issues ranging from the importance of school attendance to honesty to premarital abstinence.

9)  Roswell
(WB/first season)
This freshman teen drama succeeded where so many others have failed in the past --providing entertainment for adolescents without resorting to sexually charged plots. The series revolves around three teenaged aliens whose identity is hidden from the authorities with the help of their human friends. Though the science fiction plots are often dark, the series contains no graphic violence, or gratuitous sex.

10)   Cosby
(CBS/ranked #9 last season)
Television veteran Bill Cosby continued his long track record of providing family-friendly entertainment in his latest TV series, Cosby, which ended its long run this season. Though not a "kid" show, Cosby's plots were always clean and often dealt with difficult issues such as homelessness and drug addiction in a timely and sensitive way. This season emphasized the importance of an education and dedication to learning as the series focused more on Hilton and Ruth's daughter Erica and family friend Griffin in their roles as educators.


1)  WWF Smackdown!
(UPN/first season)
Airing at 8:00 on Thursdays, Smackdown! exposes children to obscene, raunchy, and violent content on a weekly basis. Regularly featured characters included a pimp and his "Ho Train," a sex addict, and a porn star. Episodes contained women mudwrestling topless, homosexual innuendo, and drug references. One plot line centered on a wrestler's sexual dalliance with a 70-year-old woman. Violent content included characters being beaten with chairs, poles, pipes, 2x4s, sledgehammers, street signs, chains, a piano top, and hockey sticks, getting smashed through tables and windows, getting run down by a limo, rammed by a semi truck, and being set on fire. Foul language included all the standards and audible use of the s-word, and visible (though not audible) uses of "f--k" and "motherf--ker."

2) Family Guy
(Fox/not ranked last season) 
Fox's Family Guy was unbelievably foul. This low-rated, raunchy, animated series centered on a couple, their two teenagers, and their precociously evil infant son. In its first full year, the show's creators managed to include nearly every conceivable obscenity, and references to every imaginable sexual perversion from incest to necrophilia. Series staples included nudity and references to pornography and masturbation. One episode this spring featured Peter Griffin giving his adolescent son his entire stockpile of pornographic magazines. The fact that Family Guy aired during the family hour makes it that much worse. Institutions such as the church and family were held up to ridicule on a near-weekly basis. Fortunately, The Family Guy was not picked up for next season. 

3) Action
(Fox/first season)
A critics' favorite and a ratings bomb, Action lasted only about six weeks, but it didn't waste any time making a lasting impression. This series gave viewers an inside look at the dark, seamy underbelly of Hollywood by following the exploits of Peter Dragon, a sleazy, self-centered producer who would unleash a torrent of bleeped obscenities at the slightest provocation. Action's action more often than not took place within the confines of the characters' bedrooms.

Whether TV mirrors reality or vice versa, Action is show business at its worst, entertaining American audiences with deceit, sex objectification, backstabbing, bribery, homosexuality, flagrant promiscuity, and, of course, filthy language. One episode last season highlighted finding erotic pleasure with a frog…maybe it's just a sign that Hollywood action has gotten about as low and dirty as possible.

4) Buffy the Vampire Slayer
(WB/not ranked last season)
Bloody violence, dark occult themes, and bizarre and scary sex scenes permeated the family hour in this show intended for teen audiences. Although Buffy was relatively clean in seasons past -- containing only fantasy violence and occasional sexual innuendo-- episodes this season regularly included one-night stands, heavy doses of sexual innuendo, sexualized violence, and dark, occultist elements. Violent scenes including vampires, demons, werewolves, and other creatures make this dark fantasy series a nightmare for parents. All sex among these young college freshmen is portrayed almost exclusively as romantic or fun, with no reference made to the consequences of such behavior.

5) The Beat 
(UPN/first season)
Although it only aired six times, this cop show fully deserves its place among the worst shows from last season. Incredibly foul-mouthed, The Beat used more obscenities in its short run than most network series do over an entire season. Violence was brutal and included graphic depictions of death and rape. Sex and sexual innuendo were mainstays of the show, ranging from characters viewing pornographic magazines featuring pregnant lesbians to an officer having sex with a woman who handcuffed herself to a bed during an arrest to brief images of a woman's bare breasts during her rape/murder. 

6) Ally McBeal
(Fox/ranked #4 last season)
The whimsical tone of Ally McBeal may distract viewers from how sexually raunchy the series actually is. Plotlines this season have also included many anti-religious elements, such as a minister assuring Ally that "Jesus was maybe a little off the mark" with the Sixth Commandment, and another using the confessional as an occasion for introducing a smutty monologue. Allusions to sex and male genitalia are pervasive, and casual sex is a constant obsession of the characters.

7) Norm
(ABC/not ranked last season)
For sheer vulgarity it's hard to beat Norm. This season Norm "joked" about, among other topics, penis size, pornography, prostitution (the cast of regular characters includes a reformed hooker), necrophilia, doctors sodomizing their anesthetized patients during surgery, and pedophilia. One episode early this season had Norm asking a young boy if he's looking for a father figure in order to impress a woman he's interested in. Norm asks, "Would you like that, Billy? A strong, adult man?" Billy asks, "Are you coming on to me?" When Billy later ridicules Norm in front of the woman he's interested in, Norm asks, "Have you ever even had sex?" Billy retorts, "Not with boys like you have."

This content is all the more obnoxious when one considers that Norm aired at 8:30 for most of last season and will be airing in the old TGIF time slot on ABC Fridays next season. 

8) The Drew Carey Show
(ABC/ranked #6 last season) 
Long among television's crudest sitcoms, Drew Carey continues to ratchet up its distasteful and inappropriate content. Centering on a disgruntled department store personnel manager, Drew and his similarly crass social circle escape the stress and strain of the working world by finding comfort in each other's company-drinking beer and joking about their sex lives, or lack thereof. The series consistently and shamelessly exploits foul language, sexual promiscuity and perversions, and otherwise offensive behavior to elicit a few laughs. This season, Drew Carey has focused increasingly on the bizarre sexual proclivities of the main characters. Masturbation, partial nudity, and allusions to genitalia have become regular elements. By far, the most disturbing plot device this season has been Oswald's ill-founded fear that Lewis might be having sex with a child, an attraction he termed "jungle-gym fever."

9) Will & Grace
(NBC/ranked #3 last season)
This sitcom about an unusual best-friends combination -- a straight woman and a gay man -- serves up large amounts of both hetero- and homosexual humor. Concerning the latter, most notable are the numerous wisecracks about the sex life of Will's flamboyant gay friend Jack. For example, when Jack complains that he "can't pee in public bathrooms," Will wonders, "Why not? You do everything else in them." In another episode, a lap dance from a female stripper arouses Jack, a response that worries him until he learns the stripper is a transsexual-in-the-making who, not yet having had all the necessary surgery, remains, for the time being, male from the waist down. "Thank God!" Jack exclaims. "I'm still gayer than Christmas!"

10)  Popular
(WB/first season)
Another 8:00 offering of sex and foul language from the WB, this series focuses on the battles between popular and unpopular high school sophomores. In addition to the high levels of sexual innuendo and sexual activity found on many teen series, Popular added more disturbing aspects, such as 15-year-old characters pole dancing at a strip club, another young teen fantasizing about her male teacher taking off his pants, and one character walking in on her mother having sex on the living-room floor with her boyfriend. The parents on this show are either uninvolved or act like adolescents themselves. One mother provides "comic relief" in the form of verbally abusing her daughter, whom she considers fat, homely, and stupid.



Top 10 Best and Worst Shows for family viewing on prime time broadcast TV

The Parents Television Council - www.parentstv.org




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