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PTC's Annual

Top 10 Best & Worst Family Shows on Network Television

1998-1999 TV Season


1. 7th Heaven
(WB/ranked #2 last season)
Singled out this year at the TV Guide Awards as "The Best Show You're Not Watching," 7th Heaven has enjoyed a steadily growing viewership over the past year, demonstrating the drawing power of quality family-friendly TV programming. The show's lead character is a dedicated minister and loving parent who offers wisdom and assistance to his family and flock in coming to grips with the everyday difficulties -- teenage sexuality, matters of faith, and parent-child communications -- shared by characters and viewers alike.

2.  Touched By An Angel
(CBS/ranked #1 last season)
As one of network TV's highest-rated and most-watched programs, this series centering on a group of angels who appear in human form continues with a strong pro-family message in a show that can be enjoyed by both young and old. Episodes address universal themes of love and forgiveness, and human struggles such as dealing with death, abandonment, illness, racism, and drug abuse. Throughout, the promise of God's unconditional love is delivered with the hope of redemption for lost and hurting souls.

3. Promised Land
(CBS/ranked #3 last season)
This family-centered drama is one of the few on TV with a strong father figure who demonstrates a genuine love for his family. The characters in this series have all found their way into tough situations, but their commitment to truth and integrity in the face of adversity makes the show a model of virtue in a tough world. The tribute to family relationships in the series finale was an endearing ending to a show we will miss.

4. Early Edition
(CBS/ranked #5 last season)
This interesting and often humorous series follows a man who receives tomorrow's news a day early. He spends his time preventing accidents and helping people to avoid tragedy. Qualities such as determination, kindness, compassion, courage, and self-sacrifice mark this show as one of the best on TV.

5. Smart Guy
(WB/ranked #6 last season)
This is another show that portrays a strong father who recognizes the need for guidance and limitations in raising his children. Heavy emphasis on family, education and respect for authority make this show enjoyable for the whole family.

6. Cosby
(CBS/ranked #9 last season)
Closer to the true meaning of "adult" entertainment, life's foibles and quotidian concerns serve as grist for Bill Cosby's eponymous comedy series. With former "TV wife," Phylicia Rashad, Cosby takes a freshly un-cynical, nuanced look at life with common-sense wisdom woven through the humor. The show has dealt responsibly with social issues as well, such as the state of urban schools and underage drinking and drug abuse.

7. Sabrina the Teenage Witch
(ABC/ranked #9 last season)
Sabrina continues to be highly popular with adolescent and pre-adolescent audiences. Her popularity, however, should not concern parents. Unlike Buffy and Charmed –two super-natural thrillers aimed at teenage audiences -- there are no dark themes or undercurrents. Episodes rarely (if ever) contain any material that parents might find objectionable and episodes generally conclude with a positive message.

8. Moesha
(UPN/ranked #7 last season)
An entertaining look into the world of a teenage girl who shares many of the same pressures and situations presented to all teens. Moesha is headstrong but devoted to doing what is right. Struggles with friends and family relationships often drive this show, but a strong emphasis on honesty and morality give teens another way to navigate the often troubled waters of their lives.

9. Sister Sister
(WB/not ranked last season)
This sit-com centers on the lives of two twin sisters who were separated at birth but later rejoined. There is a strong emphasis on family and the twins often rely on their parents for guidance and advice, despite attending college and living away from home.

10. Boy Meets World
(ABC/not ranked last season)
Although this series has contained more sexually suggestive humor this season than in past seasons, Boy Meets World is still one of the very few series on television to promote pre-marital abstinence. Episodes consistently reinforce positive messages, such as the importance of family and the value of education.


1. Dawson's Creek
(WB/ranked #1 last season)
Dawson's Creek earned the number one spot among the numerous sex-soaked prime time programs by being the crudest of the network shows aimed at kids. Both its eight o'clock timeslot and its youth-oriented characters and plot are aimed directly at teenage (and younger) viewers. The show features an almost obsessive focus on pre-marital sexual activity most of the characters have sex, which is treated as inconsequential and without moral context. References to topics of pornography and condoms are commonplace, as is dialogue like "All he does know is that he goes to sleep every night jerkin' his gherkin and wakes up every morning humping his mattress." Teen self-identification with homosexuality is also given a thumbs-up.

2. Melrose Place
(Fox/ranked #6 last season)
Despite being cancelled this year, Melrose Place lived down to its reputation as one of the raunchiest series on television, and rose to #2 on the list of most offensive network prime-time programs. Melrose gained notoriety through cat-fights, backstabbing, steamy sex scenes, and outrageous plot-lines, and expires while pushing the envelope with simulated sex, virtual nudity, and multiple adulterous affairs.

3. Will & Grace
(NBC/first season)
This series about a homosexual man and his female roommate wins its high position among the low-lights list primarily for its disingenuously saccharine presentation of the homosexual lifestyle, along with a gradual coarsening over the season. Though early episodes were fairly tame, explicitly sexual allusions have become commonplace. Most of the especially salacious jokes come from Will's effeminate gay friend Jack, who tells of "check[ing] out butts" at the park and remarks that he "get[s] a little funny in the tummy around the Washington Monument."

4. Ally McBeal
(Fox/ranked #8 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.

5. Spin City
(ABC/ranked #4 last season)
The dialogue in this 9:00 series would seem more appropriate in a brothel than in New York's City Hall, where much of the action takes place. Crass and vulgar language abound, while casual sex and the homosexual lifestyle (one character is an openly homosexual male) are enthusiastically condoned while providing fodder for jokes.

6. The Drew Carey Show
(ABC/ranked #7 last season)
This series about a dissatisfied department store middle manager and his buddies continue to play irresponsible drunkenness, foul language, and lascivious sexual behavior for laughs. Masturbation is a favorite topic. Carey's transvestite brother has made frequent appearances this season – and has become sexually involved with Mimi, one of Drew's co-workers.

7. Friends
(NBC/ranked #2 last season)
Friends' drop in the rankings attests to the rising raunchiness of prime time TV. By maintaining its usual level of sexual content, this long-running hit about six late-twentysomethings in lower Manhattan wasn't a contender for the top of this year's list, but was still racy enough to earn a spot toward the bottom, given its inappropriate 8 p.m. time slot. The affair between two of the characters, Monica and Chandler, supplied much of the show's humor, as they discussed ad nauseum their sex life: how they made love seven times during their first night, how their sex life is "amazing," and "the best," and other erotic elements of their relationship.

8. Millennium
(Fox/not ranked last season)
This dark series from the creators of X-Files centers on psychic and FBI profiler Frank Black. Frank is called in to help the FBI track down violent criminals, and as such, episodes frequently depict graphic violence and gore. In addition, Millennium presents a disturbing view of mankind and the future, and dark images of religion are also are a staple. Episodes this past season have contained depictions of a man being impaled and severed body parts.

9. Suddenly Susan
(NBC/not on list last season)
Susan has become a pony with only a single trick. Two interoffice relationships and another character's short-lived marriage fueled much of the frequent racy humor on this show, which centers on the staff of a San Francisco city magazine. Sexual joke topics have included penis size and masturbation and foul language is a show staple.

10. That '70 Show
(Fox/not ranked last season)
This is another show that earns a spot for its special appeal to children. The series centers around a group of teenagers growing up in Wisconsin in the 1970's, with plots fueled by drugs, teen angst, and sex. Promiscuous sex (then known as 'free love') dope smoking, beer drinking and other outre activities among teenagers are all just part of the gag here.



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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