Research on sex, violence, and profanity on Television
Top Ten Best and Worst Shows for family viewing on prime time broadcast television
(October 19, 2005) - Each
year, the Parents Television Council rates the best and the worst shows on
primetime television on the seven major broadcast networks. The PTC Best and
Worst list measures series'
appropriateness for family audiences from a content perspective. The seven
broadcast networks included in this listing are ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, ITV, UPN
and the WB. Primetime refers to 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. (ET/PT), when the largest
television audience is available.
The Parents Television Council announced its choices for the Top Ten Best and
Worst Shows for family viewing on prime time broadcast television for the
2005-2006 season and found that the top three worst shows for families - The War
at Home, The Family Guy, and American Dad - are packaged as family shows.
"We provide this analysis as a guide for parents because it's very difficult to
monitor all the shows that are appropriate for family viewing and those that are
not," said L. Brent Bozell, president of the PTC. "We were alarmed to find that
the three worst shows on prime time broadcast television are being marketed as
family-friendly when, in fact, these shows are none other than wolves in sheep's
"Families should not be deceived. The top three worst shows all contain crude
and raunchy dialogue with sex-themed jokes and foul language. Even worse is the
fact that Hollywood is peddling its filth to families with cartoons like The
Family Guy and American Dad. These two shows have contained scenes in which
characters are shown having sex and topics such as masturbation, incest,
bestiality, and necrophilia are routinely discussed.
"There are several high quality shows on this list that families can watch
together and not be caught by surprise over filthy dialogue or graphic sex and
violence. However, it is clear that Hollywood does not care about families as
evidenced by the fact that we could only cite nine shows on prime time that were
deemed safe for family viewing. That is outrageous. Network executives should be
ashamed and millions of families should be offended at their actions."
This analysis is the PTC's ninth ranking of the best and worst series on
broadcast television from the perspective of family audiences. The lists are
ranked based on the content of the program and the appropriateness of the show
for children. The criterion for this annual ranking includes not only the
frequency of foul language, sexual content and violence but also the time slot,
target audience, themes and plotlines of the programs.
The Top Ten Best and Worst Shows for family viewing on prime time broadcast
Makeover: Home Edition ABC/8:00
Sunday - Returning show
1. The War at
Fox/8:30 Sunday - 1st
Wishes NBC/9:00 Friday - 1st
2. The Family
Guy Fox/9:00 Sunday - Returning
Idol Fox/Returning in spring
Dad Fox/9:30 Sunday - Returning
4. The Ghost
Whisperer CBS/8:00 Friday - 1st
4. The O.C.
Fox/8:00 Thursday - Returning
Hates Chris UPN/8:00 Thursday -
(Crime Scene Investigation)
Thursday - Returning show
WB/9:00 Friday - Returning show
Housewives ABC/9:00 Sunday -
7. Bernie Mac
Fox/8:00 Friday - Returning
7. Two and a
CBS/9:00 Monday - Returning show
with the Stars ABC/Returning in
8. That ‘70s
Show Fox/Returning in November
Heaven WB/8:00 Monday -
Monday - Returning show
10. Cold Case
CBS/8:00 Sunday - Returning show
Extreme Makeover: Home Edition
Sunday - Returning show
Extreme Makeover: Home Edition
is an excellent example of a constructive and uplifting reality TV show. Unlike
other reality series that emphasize and exploit contestants' worst qualities
(greed, dishonesty, vanity, etc.), this inspiring program showcases charity and
week carpenter Ty Pennington and a crew of designers, contractors, and workmen
completely renovate the home of a deserving family. Already this season the
team has helped the family of Master Sergeant Luis Rodriguez, who lost half of
his right leg while serving in Iraq; the Barretts, who adopt and raise children
deemed "un-adoptable" by the Colorado Department of Human Services; and Colleen
Nick, whose daughter Morgan was abducted ten years ago, and who, while working
tirelessly to find her daughter, also educates other parents about preventing
child abduction. Besides highlighting the good works for families in need, the
program also features local companies that often donate funds to establish
scholarships for the young children in these struggling families, ensuring they
have a chance at a better future. This series is a breath of fresh air and a
Friday - 1st season
Wishes is the
best example yet of the positive potential of reality TV. Utterly engaging and
heartfelt, this series demonstrates the transformative power of kindness. Each
week, singer Amy Grant and a crew descend on a different small town to help
deserving families realize their fondest hopes and dreams by granting them three
Too often our
celebrity-obsessed culture celebrates vanity, materialism, and selfishness. For
children growing up surrounded by that environment, the temptation to give-in to
those influences can be tremendous. Three Wishes is a much-needed
antidote, showing viewers that charity is its own reward.
-- Returning in spring '06
American Idol: The Search for a Superstar, hundreds of young men and women
compete for the opportunity to become America's next singing sensation. A
handful of young hopefuls make it to the final stages of the contest where
caustic producer Simon Cowell, ‘80s pop star and choreographer Paula Abdul, and
music industry veteran Randy Jackson judge their performances. Viewers at home
decide who advances and who will be eliminated from the competition.
some viewers may find Cowell's harsh and often blunt commentary unappealing,
American Idol is an entertaining show that the entire family can enjoy.
Idol doesn't have a moral or a message, but it can be appreciated for what
it is: a talent competition, pure and simple. This reality series doesn't focus
on backstabbing or betrayal, and it doesn't follow the contestants' bedroom
shenanigans. What it does focus on is the surprisingly good performances
turned in by the talented young singers.
4. The Ghost
CBS/8:00 Friday - 1st Season
Although The Ghost Whisperer is not as explicitly pro-faith as Joan of
Arcadia, which occupied the same time slot last season, the two shows have
much in common. In both cases the main character serves as a conduit to bring
comfort and help to troubled souls. In Joan of Arcadia, God appeared to
Joan in various forms, providing her with guidance and instruction which she
used to help those around her. In The Ghost Whisperer, ghosts appear to
Melinda, a newlywed psychic, and ask her to deliver messages of love and comfort
to grieving friends and family. Though some viewers may be put-off by a series
about the supernatural, The Ghost Whisperer has proven to be one of the
few family-friendly shows left on the Tiffany Network. Episodes so far have
contained only minimal foul language, mild violence, and virtually no sexual
Everybody Hates Chris
Thursday - 1st Season
time when so many TV sitcoms rely on lowest-common-denominator humor and adult
themes, Everybody Hates Chris provides a refreshing change of pace.
on the early teen years of stand-up comic and film actor Chris Rock,
Everybody Hates Chris follows Chris's experiences at age thirteen, living in
a poor New York neighborhood with his father, mother, and two younger siblings.
The outstanding feature of this series is the depiction of a loving, close-knit
family where the parents act like grown-ups and the kids don't run the house.
His parents work hard to provide for their children financially as well as
Although there is occasional
mild language and sexual innuendo, the messages are overwhelmingly positive and
WB/9:00 Friday - Returning show
the off-putting premise of a divorcee whose husband cheated on her and whose
daughter got pregnant while still in high school; Reba manages to deal
with difficult subject matter without relying on cheap innuendo or vulgarity.
continues to successfully deal with weighty subjects. This series successfully
blends humor with serious messages about personal responsibility, compassion,
and the importance of family.
Fox/8:00 Friday - Returning show
Originally inspired by comedian Bernie Mac's life, this returning sitcom centers
on the career-driven Bernie and Wanda, who see their world turned upside down
when Bernie agrees to take care of his sister's children. Bernie thinks
he knows everything there is to know about parenting, but discovers along the
way that growing up and raising children is a never-ending process.
children mature into adolescence the show has introduced the unavoidable
conversations about relationships with the opposite sex and other mature topics,
but all have been handled with responsibility and gentleness.
Dancing with the Stars
-- Returning in spring ‘06
hit of the summer, Dancing with the Stars paired minor celebrities with
professional dancers, and made America fall in love with ballroom dancing.
beginning of each episode the hosts explain the type of dances to be performed
and the criteria the judges will use to determine the winner. As the stars
perform, the viewer sees the featured dance steps in action and gleans an
understanding of an art and entertainment form largely overlooked by American
popular culture in the 21st century.
is an elegant program that the whole family can gather around the television to
watch. As actor/contestant John O'Hurley pointed out in one episode this summer,
"This is just such great television I don't want to leave it! There are people -
grandparents, parents and kids - watching us all over the country in the same
room, and how rare is that for great television? So I just want to keep being a
part of it."
WB/8:00 Monday - Returning show
for its tenth season, 7th Heaven
continues to be a beacon of family friendly entertainment. Minister Eric Camden
and his wife Annie deal with the ups and downs of raising children while gently
guiding their seven offspring through life.
Heaven is one of
the most wholesome and inoffensive programs on television. Sexual content is
dealt with responsibly, especially as the Camden children mature and are faced
with complicated issues. This season, Lucy struggles with her role as a wife
and mother while working as the associate pastor at the church. Ruthie is no
longer a sweet little girl; she continues to grow up quickly, shocking her
parents with her new interest in being "sexy" and dating older guys, and Simon
gets seriously involved with an overbearing girl who pushes for a wedding.
Through all of their children's struggles, Eric and Annie remain open and
loving, while helping them to make the right decisions. This series deals with
the complex, realistic struggles that families face, but continues to do it in a
compassionate, open and heartfelt way.
The War at Home
Sunday - 1st Season
as a family comedy, The War at Home may be one of the raunchiest and
least intelligent shows of the new season. The Washington Post described
it as "unconscionably smutty," then went on to say, "the problem is not just
that it's crude and gross, but that its crudeness and grossness are so
pathetically forced and contrived. Its vulgarity has no integrity... all the
characters are vile in spirit and objectionable in essence."
first episode opened with Dave introducing viewers to his wife, Vicky, then
saying, "Did you check out that rack? Nice, huh?" Of his daughter, Hillary,
viewers learn, "I only have one simple rule for dating my teenage daughter: if
she sees your penis, I'll cut it off." It goes downhill from there. An early
episode this season had Dave buying his teenage son a lubricant because he was
making himself sore from masturbating too often.
2. The Family Guy
9:00 Sunday - Returning show
unbelievably foul animated series made a strong come back after being off the
air for two years, thanks to the success of DVD sales among young males. The
raunchy series follows the Griffins, a blue-collar New England family which
includes a martini-swilling, talking dog and a matricidal baby bent on world
domination. The show bases its humor on scatological and sexual references
(including masturbation, incest, bestiality, necrophilia), and spoofs on popular
culture. Institutions such as the church and family are held up to ridicule on a
near-weekly basis. One episode this season featured Meg being deflowered by
Jimmy Fallon on Saturday Night Live. Parents of young children should be
especially concerned because Family Guy's animated format is sure to
attract young viewers. Shockingly, since its return in May, Family Guy
is the highest ranked show among 12-17 year olds, and the fifth highest ranked
show among children ages 2 to 11.
Fox/9:30 Sunday - Returning show
Completing Fox's Sunday night trifecta of raunch is American Dad. From
the same creator as Family Guy and just as popular with young viewers,
American Dad follows Stan, a conservative CIA agent and his unusual family
that includes an alien and a goldfish that speaks with a German accent. In the
first episode of the 2005 season Stan's rebellious teenaged daughter Hayley
began a sexual affair with Stan's boss. Stan happily overlooked
the inappropriate relationship because he was in line for a promotion. Jokes
about bestiality and pornography have cropped up. Episodes have also included
animated nudity, vulgar anatomical references and sexual innuendo.
/8:00 Thursday - Returning show
O.C. follows the
life of Ryan Atwood, a tough but brilliant 17 year-old boy from blue collar
Chino, California. After a brush with the law, Ryan is taken in by a
compassionate public defender and his family in upscale Newport Beach.
most soaps, The O.C. gets its dramatic momentum from over-the-top
storylines. In season two, marital infidelity, drug use, blackmail,
pornography, and sexual experimentation took center stage. Such subject matter
would be bad enough on an adult-drama, but The O.C. was created for and
is marketed directly to impressionable young viewers. One episode last season
featured a party in which teenagers were shown smoking pot, snorting cocaine,
and engaging in drunken threesomes. Another storyline focused on Marissa's
mother's attempts to get an X-rated video tape back from her pornographer
ex-boyfriend, who was using it for blackmail. Also last season, Marissa
experimented with a same-sex relationship (which just happened to coincide with
the February sweeps).
C.S.I. (Crime Scene Investigation)
Thursday - Returning show
A series about
crime scene investigators is bound to deal with some distasteful subjects, but
C.S.I. takes it a step further by providing graphic depictions of
decaying bodies, grisly crime scenes, dissections, flashbacks of brutal rapes
and murders, and kinky and bizarre sexual fetishes. Even the New York Post
recently made mention of C.S.I.'s obsession with fetishes and sexual
deviancy. Such content would be bad enough at 10:00 p.m., but this series airs
at 9:00 (8:00 in the Central and Mountain time zones), with reruns often airing
during the Family Hour. C.S.I. is also watched by millions of children
episodes included storylines about the murder of a man who practiced the sexual
fetish of infantilism, complete with scenes of him playing baby and "nursing"
from his girlfriend's breasts; a murder resulting from the antics at a
wife-swapping sex party; the investigation of illegal sex-change operations,
complete with frightening and graphic death scenes; and a case at a mental
hospital that revealed a twisted relationship of mother-son incest. In the
first two episodes of this current season there was a storyline about a man
dying from auto-erotic asphyxiation and a plot involving a special Las Vegas
luxury "party bus" in which men were entertained by strippers.
Sunday- Returning show
by its creators as "a darkly comedic look at happily ever after," Desperate
Housewives presupposes that statutory rape, murder, drug abuse, suicide,
murder, and kinky, adulterous sex are sources of hilarity. The program focuses
on five women living in suburbia who are confronted with problems common to many
Americans; but these women's reactions are far from common.
Alice, who committed suicide in the first episode, narrates the stories of her
friends who live on Wisteria Lane from beyond the grave. Lowlights last season
include Gabrielle's adulterous and criminal relationship with her teenaged
gardener and Bree's discovery that her husband Rex was engaging in kinky sex
with a prostitute.
not targeted directly at children, and despite the clearly adult themes,
Desperate Housewives is surprisingly popular with young viewers.
Two and a Half Men
Monday - Returning show
Charlie is a
promiscuous jingle-writer whose life continues to be up-ended while his divorced
brother, Alan, and young nephew, Jake, live in his home. Charlie's overpowering
libido, unfortunately, continues to trump any impulse to be a responsible role
model for his young nephew. There are constant references to the steady stream
of one-night stands parading in and out of Charlie's bedroom. As for female
role models, there aren't any. Women in this sitcom consist of the bimbos
Charlie sleeps with, then discards; Alan's shrewish, vindictive, gold-digger of
an ex-wife; and Alan and Charlie's wealthy, materialistic and youth-obsessed
presence of a precocious youngster, this series is not for children. To make
matters worse, young Jake is often included in these adult situations. In one
scene, Charlie teaches Jake ways to surreptitiously make obscene gestures, and
in another, Jake discovers his teacher's affair with his uncle Charlie after
finding her in the kitchen wearing nothing but a t-shirt and panties. Two
and a Half Men is a weekly half-hour of non-stop vulgarity and cheap
8. That ‘70s Show
Fox/Returning in November ‘05
'70s Show follows
a group of teens growing up in a small Wisconsin town during the 1970s.
Frequently included on the PTC's Top 10 Worst list, this series once
again earns a spot for its casual and irresponsible treatment of teen sex and
drug use, which are depicted as risk- and consequence-free. Frequent references
are made to pornography and masturbation. In one episode, for example, Kelso
decides that he has to start respecting women, so he gives Fez his entire
collection of pornographic magazines. Jackie says that giving Fez a "box full
of nudie magazines" is like giving a monkey a loaded gun, to which Fez replies,
"No, it's not. A monkey with a loaded gun can hurt a lot of people. I can only
hurt myself." When they see Fez later, he looks exhausted because he has done
nothing but look at pornography all day. Episodes also endorse smoking
marijuana as harmless fun.
8:00 Monday - Returning show
Arrested Development is the story of the Bluth family. The show picks up when
George Sr. is arrested for securities fraud and his son Michael is left to pick
up the pieces of the family and their business.
is designed to offend. Episodes regularly contain scripted bleeps. This
enables the writers to use language, including "f**k" and "s**t," network
censors would never allow. Arrested Development also employs some
of the most outrageous double-entendres ever to find their way into prime-time.
In one episode, for example, Tobias says he was an analyst and a therapist,
making him the first "analrapist." Other episodes have delved into the bizarre sexual
proclivities of the main characters, such as Lucille's revelation that she and
George derive sexual pleasure from being strangled with a belt.
Sunday - Returning show
This is a
perfect example of a very adult-themed series airing in an inappropriate time
slot. Cold Case is a drama about a Philadelphia police detective who
delves into old murder cases with a fresh eye. Stories are often told in
flashback, recounting graphic murders and other violent crimes.
continues to deliver shocking and disturbing themes and scenes. Last year's
episodes included grisly crimes involving a transvestite teenaged prostitute
killed in a possible snuff film; a man who forced illegal immigrant women to
perform sex acts on him; the case of a young boy sold by kidnappers to a child
pornographer; and in the season finale, a mother offering her son to a rapist in
exchange for her own safety.