Top 10 Best & Worst
Family Shows on Network Television
1998-99 TV Season
Hollywood, Calif. -- Each year
for the past several years, the Parents Television Council (PTC) has
rated the best and the worst of family fare on primetime television for the six major
networks. The criteria include not only the raw numbers of incidents of foul language,
sex, and violence, but also the time slot, target audience, themes and plotlines of the
programs. With only 11 green-lighted shows designated as safe viewing for the whole
family, there was far more bad programming to choose from than good this year -- but the
PTC intends to work to help you change that in the coming year.
The Parents Television Council was established in 1995 as the Hollywood
project of the Media Research Center. The PTC's mission is to restore responsibility to
the entertainment industry. The PTC has gained tremendous grassroots support from
hundreds of thousands of people concerned about the harmful effect that offensive
entertainment media are having on America's culture. The PTC is leading the effort to
demand that Hollywood voluntarily refrain from aiming at children those products that
glorify sex, violence, drug use, and a culture of disrespect and death.
TOP 10 BEST
(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.
(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.
(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.
TOP 10 WORST
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
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
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.
(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
(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.