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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 clothing."

"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 television are:



1.  Extreme Makeover: Home Edition ABC/8:00 Sunday - Returning show

1. The War at Home Fox/8:30 Sunday - 1st Season

2. Three Wishes NBC/9:00 Friday - 1st season

2. The Family Guy Fox/9:00 Sunday - Returning show

3. American Idol Fox/Returning in spring '06

3. American Dad Fox/9:30 Sunday - Returning show

4. The Ghost Whisperer CBS/8:00 Friday - 1st Season

4. The O.C. Fox/8:00 Thursday - Returning show

5. Everybody Hates Chris UPN/8:00 Thursday - 1st Season

5. C.S.I. (Crime Scene Investigation) CBS/9:00 Thursday - Returning show

6. Reba WB/9:00 Friday - Returning show

6. Desperate Housewives ABC/9:00 Sunday - Returning show

7. Bernie Mac Fox/8:00 Friday - Returning show

7. Two and a Half Men CBS/9:00 Monday - Returning show

8. Dancing with the Stars ABC/Returning in spring 06

8. That 70s Show Fox/Returning in November 05

9. 7th Heaven WB/8:00 Monday - Returning show

9. Arrested Development Fox/8:00 Monday - Returning show

10.  Not available.

10. Cold Case CBS/8:00 Sunday - Returning show


1. Extreme Makeover: Home Edition

ABC/8:00 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 selflessness.

Each 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 television rarity.

2.  Three Wishes

 NBC/9:00 Friday - 1st season

 Three 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 wishes.    

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. 

3.  American Idol

Fox -- Returning in spring '06

In 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.

While 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 Whisperer

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 content. 

5.  Everybody Hates Chris

UPN/8:00 Thursday - 1st Season

At a time when so many TV sitcoms rely on lowest-common-denominator humor and adult themes, Everybody Hates Chris provides a refreshing change of pace.

Based 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 emotionally.

Although there is occasional mild language and sexual innuendo, the messages are overwhelmingly positive and heartfelt.

6.  Reba

WB/9:00 Friday - Returning show

Despite 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.

Reba continues to successfully deal with weighty subjects. This series successfully blends humor with serious messages about personal responsibility, compassion, and the importance of family. 

7. Bernie Mac

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.

As the 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.

8.  Dancing with the Stars

ABC -- Returning in spring 06

The surprise hit of the summer, Dancing with the Stars paired minor celebrities with professional dancers, and made America fall in love with ballroom dancing. 

At the 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.

Dancing with the Stars 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."

9.  7th Heaven

WB/8:00 Monday - Returning show

Returning 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.   

7th 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.



1. The War at Home

Fox/8:30 Sunday - 1st Season

Billed 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."

The 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

Fox/ 9:00 Sunday - Returning show

This 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.

3.  American Dad!

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.

4. The O.C.

Fox /8:00 Thursday - Returning show

The 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.

Like 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).

5. C.S.I. (Crime Scene Investigation)

CBS/9:00 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 each week.

Last season, 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.

6. Desperate Housewives

 ABC/9:00 Sunday- Returning show

Billed 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.

Mary 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.

While not targeted directly at children, and despite the clearly adult themes, Desperate Housewives is surprisingly popular with young viewers.

7. Two and a Half Men

CBS/9:00 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 mother.

Despite the 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 innuendo.

8. That 70s Show

Fox/Returning in November 05

That '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. 

9.  Arrested Development

Fox/ 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.

Arrested Development 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. 

10. Cold Case

CBS/8:00 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.

Cold Case 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.



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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