Your Children Watching?
Rating the Top 20 Most Popular Prime Time Broadcast TV Shows
Watched by Children Ages 2-17
following listing is based on a Nielsen ranking of prime time broadcast
programs most watched by children between the ages of 2-17 for the 2005-2006
television season and the first part of the 2006-2007 television season.
Only recurring or series programs were included. Each series has been
evaluated for its appropriateness for children under the age of 18 based on
a comprehensive review of the content on each of these programs.
Fox/Returning Spring '07
With television audiences becoming
increasingly fragmented, American Idol:
The Search for a Superstar has done what conventional Hollywood
wisdom has declared to be impossible: it has united families in front of
the television set and proven that wholesome, family-friendly entertainment
can be wildly successful. Consistently the
highest-rated show on television, this talent competition has
given hundreds of young men and women a shot at becoming America's next
While some viewers may find producer Simon
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.
p.m. ET Thursdays
usher-in the era of reality TV. In it, contestants are left to fend for
themselves in a secluded and remote location. With only the clothes on
their backs and one luxury item each, they must struggle not only to
survive, but to stay in the competition. Each week one contestant is voted
"off the island" by his fellow contestants. The last one standing wins the
million dollar prize and the title of "Sole Survivor."
Survivor can be somewhat
unpredictable. Some seasons are very clean, other seasons less so. During
one episode, two female contestants stripped naked during a challenge in
exchange for chocolate cookies and peanut butter. Although the nudity was
pixilated, it was captured on tape and broadcast into millions of homes. In
other seasons, contestants have been involved in sexual situations –
inviting TV audiences to become voyeurs. In addition, some episodes have
contained graphic scenes of violence or bodily harm, as when a contestant
passed out and collapsed into a bonfire, badly burning both his hands.
p.m. ET Sundays
Now in its 18th season,
The Simpsons is the longest
running comedy series in US TV History save for
Saturday Night Live.
It has beaten the previous record holder for the
longest-running prime time animated series (The
Flintstones) by more than ten years.
The Simpsons hasn't changed
much over the years. In the beginning critics complained about the
irreverent humor, the bumbling father figure and disrespectful attitudes
displayed by the children – those elements are still present, and still
problematic. On the plus side, the series depicts a loving, if somewhat
dysfunctional family and episodes often contain a moral or a message.
frequently contains cartoon violence, and occasionally employs mild
profanities and sexual innuendo. Such content isn't frequent, but is
notable when it occurs. In the 2005 season premiere, for example, Homer
allows the mafia to film a pornographic movie in the Simpson home. There are
no graphic depictions of sex in the scene, but there is talk of lesbian
Extreme Makeover: Home Edition
p.m. ET Sundays
Makeover: Home Edition
may be the most family-friendly series on television and 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
Each week, carpenter Ty Pennington and a crew
of designers, contractors, and workmen completely renovate the home of a
deserving family. Featured families are often chosen because of health
conditions or special needs that make their current homes unsuitable.
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
p.m. ET Sundays
Dad is the
brainchild of Seth MacFarlane, who also brought us the ultra-raunchy cartoon
series Family Guy. American Dad
follows Stan, a conservative CIA agent devoted to his country and his
work above anything else, even his own family. Francine is his trophy
housewife, and his children are Hailey, the rebellious daughter and Steve,
the geeky son who has no scruples whatsoever. The family also has Helmut, a
lascivious German talking fish, and an androgynous alien from the outer
space named Roger.
The show intends to be as irreverent as the
Family Guy targeting American
values and institutions. Stanley Smith's national sentiment is portrayed as
mere jingoism making him look like the ultimate ugly white male American.
The humor consists of scatology and crude sexual innuendo. Violence is
mostly comedic but can be quite graphic at times and often includes guns and
fight sequences. Language is often coarse.
p.m. ET Sundays
is a raunchy
animated series about a blue-collar New England family and is utterly
lacking in any redeeming qualities.
Although the show is intended to be a satire
of the American family, it spends most of its time pushing the limits of
decency with heavy sexual innuendo and sexual themes. In one episode, Peter
calls his wife a "foul, venereal-disease-carrying, streetwalking, whore"
during sex. In another episode the school principal is seen receiving a
massage which results in an implied orgasm. Cartoon nudity is common and
violence, though animated, is frequent and often brutal. Episodes also
frequently employ foul language. Parents of young children are especially
cautioned because Family Guy's
animated format is sure to make it attractive to young viewers.
NBC Sunday Night Football
p.m. ET Sundays
The lack of child-appropriate programming on
television can be confounding for parents. Fortunately, sports are usually
a safe alternative, and in the fall, that means football. As an added
advantage, children – young boys in particular – love to watch sports and
watching with your child can present opportunities to talk about good
sportsmanship, leadership, and teamwork. All in all, it's not a bad way to
spend a Sunday evening.
Parents really don't have to worry about
content during the games – but increasingly the ads during the games are a
becoming a major concern with ads for male enhancement, beer and
adult-oriented prime time dramas occupying prime ad space.
The War at Home
p.m. ET Sundays
Similar in tone to
Married with Children, The War at Home
takes an irreverent look at American family life. It may very
well be one of the raunchiest and least intelligent shows currently on
television. 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
themes and irresponsible parenting are the dominant themes in
The War at Home. In one
episode, Dave supplies his 13-year-old son with lubricant because he was
making himself sore from masturbating too often. In another, Dave suspects
each of his children of stealing his marijuana – in the end his wife, Vicky
is shown smoking the missing stash. In another, Dave and Vicky try
desperately to conceal from each other the fact that they both had sex with
the same female friend in college. Episodes also often contain scripted
bleeped obscenities, including the "F-word."
Deal or No Deal
p.m. ET Thursdays
ABC revived the prime time game show in the
late ‘90s with Who Wants to be a
Millionaire and reaped the rewards with blockbuster ratings. NBC
has experienced similar ratings resurgence with this hit game show hosted by
comedian Howie Mandel. Deal or No Deal
is a game of odds in which contestants play for a top prize of $1
million. The contestants are allowed to bring several people to aid them in
making decisions. Often they are spouses, friends or siblings and the
significance of the person's relationship to the contestant is emphasized.
Completely devoid of sex and violence
Deal or No Deal is an
entertaining program the whole family can enjoy.
p.m. ET Tuesdays
Dr. Gregory House is an unconventional
physician and an undisputed genius. He is an infectious disease specialist
capable of solving the cases that no one else can. His amazing diagnostic
skills are also complemented with an astonishing perception of the human
nature. With just a quick glimpse at a patient, he knows whether he is
hiding something, lying, or if the condition is merely psychosomatic. Dr.
House is a genius but also a misanthropic eccentric inept at personal
relationships. He's has been in severe pain for years because of a leg
injury and has become addicted to pain-killers.
House is not particularly
violent, although some scenes depicting surgical procedures might be too
graphic for young viewers. Several episodes have contained sexual content.
In one episode, for example, a young man falls ill during sex and explicit
dialogue about the possibilities of dying as a result of kinky sex followed.
In another, a teenage model suffering from a mysterious condition claims to
have seduced her father and manager. Doctors later discover that she is a
hermaphrodite with testicular cancer. In yet another, an elderly woman
starts showing the recurrent symptoms of syphilis, which involve an
abnormally increased libido. Language can also be raw.
Dancing with the Stars
p.m. ET Tuesdays
would have thought a ballroom dancing competition would be a ratings success
and one of the most popular programs with young audiences? This surprise
hit that pairs celebrities with professional dancers has earned a permanent
spot on ABC's primetime schedule and has made America fall in love with
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.
is an elegant program that the
whole family can gather around the television to watch.
p.m. ET Sundays
Now in its third season,
Desperate Housewives' twisted
take on American family life is as deliberately distasteful as it ever was.
There is no such thing as "happily ever after" for the women of Wisteria
Lane. Instead, marital discord, adultery, statutory rape and murder are
Mary Alice, who committed suicide in the first
episode of Season One, narrates the stories of her friends who live on
Wisteria Lane from beyond the grave.
Desperate Housewives seems to have a particular fixation on
statutory rape and grossly inappropriate relationships. In the first
season, Gabrielle had a long-term affair with her teenaged gardener. In
season two, Bree's teenaged son seduced his mother's bisexual, sex-addicted
lover out of vengeance. This season, Bree's teenaged daughter is having an
affair with her married high school history teacher.
America's Got Talent
NBC/Returning Spring ‘07
No doubt inspired – at least in part – by
The Gong Show, this talent
competition invites acts from around the country to perform for three
celebrity judges in front of a live studio audience in hopes of being voted
into the next round of competition and bringing home the one million dollar
cash prize. If the judges aren't enjoying the act, they can press a buzzer
that will stop the performance and disqualify the contestant from proceeding
in the competition.
The show's concept of having a nationwide primetime talent show seems
harmless enough at first blush. Most of the featured acts are singers,
dancers, jugglers or magicians. But some of the acts are in questionable
taste and decidedly inappropriate for family audiences. In the first three
episodes of the first season, for example, two contestants performed strip
So You Think You Can Dance
Fox/Returning Spring ‘07
Think You Can Dance
gives twenty dancers a shot at dancing in a Las Vegas show. Versatility is
the key to success in this competition as dancers learn to perform a range
of dance styles ranging from Hip Hop and Jazz to Modern and Ballroom. Each
week one male and one female dancer is eliminated from the competition.
The choreographers explain techniques and
influences to the contestants and the audience, helping to cultivate
understanding and appreciation for the various dances. Some of the dances,
particularly Hip Hop can contain suggestive moves. After the mass auditions
end, the amount of questionable language greatly diminishes as does any
sexual innuendo. The judges offer support and constructive criticism to the
p.m. ET Thursdays
series about crime scene investigators is bound to deal with some
distasteful subjects. But this series isn't just about the science behind
forensic investigations – the process of finding and identifying
fingerprints and DNA or matching bullets to the guns that discharged them;
C.S.I. takes it a step
further by providing graphic depictions of decaying bodies, grisly crime
scenes, dissections, and flashbacks of brutal rapes and murders. 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.
With each passing season, the storylines become more outrageous and
horrifying. Every possibly sexual deviancy and kinky fetish has been
explored. In addition to close-ups of corpses, young viewers have been
witnesses to cannibalism, scenes of a brother and sister having sex, men
receiving S&M beatings from a dominatrix in a sex club, a woman making a sex
video for her 15-year-old stepson, a wife-swapping sex party, a case at a
mental hospital that revealed a twisted relationship of mother-son incest, a
man dying from autoerotic asphyxiation and a plot involving a special Las
Vegas luxury "party bus" in which men were entertained by strippers. Clearly
none of this content is appropriate for children, and yet millions tune-in,
week after week.
p.m. ET Wednesdays
Forty-eight survivors of a plane crash on a
deserted island struggle to survive and adapt. The island appears to harbor
a mysterious secret, as do each of the survivors. Flashbacks show us pieces
of the individuals' lives. Jack, a doctor, has emerged as the leader on the
island, due to his ability and desire to help everyone. Kate, a woman who
was under arrest and being transported by the authorities has become a
leader as well. The other survivors include a brother and sister, Boone and
Shannon; a rough-around-the-edges troublemaker named Sawyer; a Middle
Eastern man named Sayid who suffers from many preconceptions shared by other
passengers; a Korean couple, Jin and Sun, who speak no English; a young boy,
Walt, and his dad, Michael; and a mysterious hunter, Locke, who prior to the
crash was paralyzed but now walks about on his own.
The violence on
Lost may be too frightening for
children. Recent episodes feature numerous fight scenes between the Oceanic
flight survivors and the "Others." In a recent episode, Sawyer is brutally
beaten until he is covered in blood. There are also scenes of gunplay,
including a shoot out in which a woman is killed. In one flashback a
character commits suicide and in several scenes characters are covered in
p.m. ET Wednesdays
showcases twelve contestants in their struggle to lose the most weight.
Comedienne Caroline Rhea hosts this reality competition that puts
old-fashioned diet and exercise, instead of plastic surgery, to the test.
The competitors are divided into two teams and given trainers that boast two
very different, but apparently equally successful, diet and exercise
regimens. Every week the teams undergo rigorous exercise and participate in
challenges that test their commitment to this lifestyle change. The
contestants are then subjected to a weigh-in and the team that loses the
least amount of weight must send a member of their team home. The stakes are
high, because besides a healthier, thinner body, the biggest loser will walk
away with $250,000.
This is a fairly clean show. There is no violence and only rarely is there
sexual innuendo. As with most reality programs, there is quite a bit of
bleeped language, including the ‘F' word. It comes mostly in times of high
emotion as the participants deal with living together and also with the
grueling diet and exercise programs that are not always successful.
p.m. ET Mondays
Engineer Michael Burrows gets himself arrested
so that he can be imprisoned with his brother Lincoln in the state
penitentiary and help him escape. This season, the action is centered on
the escaped convicts' efforts to avoid capture and to find the $5 million
cash hidden by one of their fellow convicts.
As can be anticipated for a show set in prison, violence has been a major
thematic element. At times, the violence depicted can be quite graphic and
disturbing. In one episode from last season, John Abruzzi cut off two of
Michael's toes with hedge clippers. In another, a prison riot results in
the prisoners beating and stabbing the correctional officers.
Dr. Meredith Grey is TV's latest angst-filled
heroine. Ally McBeal in scrubs. The night before starting work as a
surgical intern at Seattle Grace hospital, she had a one night stand with a
man who turns out to be her married boss, Dr. Derek Shepard. She is also
floored by the discovery that her mother, a famous, pioneering surgeon whose
brilliant mind has been ravaged by Alzheimers, had a long-term affair with
the Chief of Surgery at Seattle Grace. Her friends and fellow-interns have
equally complicated love lives.
The sexual content is not explicit, but
pervasive – especially the recurrent theme of infidelity. As the show is
based in a hospital, a fair amount of medical procedures are shown in great
detail, with blood, open wounds and surgery being a part of the storyline.
Foul language is also a frequent problem.
Returning Spring ‘07
offers average Americans a chance at fame and fortune. Innovative thinkers,
average Americans and deluded oddballs all have the opportunity to
demonstrate their inventions to a panel of judges including British media
mogul Peter Jones; advertising executive Ed Evangelista; women's marketing
expert Mary Lou Quinlan: and inventor Doug Hall. Finalists are given expert
advice by the panel and assistance in developing their inventions, while the
winner will receive a million-dollar prize.
Violence is not a problem for this program. Sexual content is rare and is
treated negatively. Some mild profanity is present, but not overwhelming,
and while there is a large amount of literal "toilet humor," with many
inventors' ideas for improvements in America's bathroom habits displayed, so
far such content has not crossed the line into tastelessness. All in all,
this is a series that rewards innovation, creativity, talent and
determination making it a suitable program for family audiences.
Top 10 Best and Worst Shows for family viewing on prime time broadcast
The Parents Television Council -