Balcer maintains that violence is hard to define. On some shows, sure. On most, it's not. Let's look at one new example from May's season finales -- in this case, the CBS naval-detective drama "NCIS" on May 22. A man serving as a "body packer," who has ingested packets of an undefined white powdery drug (let's guess cocaine), gets in an accident at the airport. At the hospital, he begins to panic that the packets have ruptured, and he dies of an overdose.
His young addicted sister and an Irish pimp-drug dealer are there, trying to retrieve the drugs. One of the naval detectives and his girlfriend, a doctor, are taken hostage at gunpoint in the morgue and ordered to cut the corpse open. The scene moves from the violent and explicit to the completely stomach-churning.
The doctor makes an incision and pulls out the dead man's intestines. She holds them up to the sister and says, "Do you want this?" Then she cuts the intestines open to let the powdery drugs spill all over the floor. The pimp attacks, so the doctor stabs him with a scalpel, and he drops his gun. The detective grabs the gun, shoots past the pimp, says, "Next one's in your ear," and forces the pimp to surrender.
But the scene's not done. "Oh, God," the detective says, as he watches the dead man's sister snorting the drugs out of her brother's sliced-open intestines, blood and gore all over her face.
Incredibly, CBS didn't tag this episode with a "V" label. So much for Hollywood's devotion to self-discipline. But the most irresponsible part of all of this is the program's slot on the schedule: 8 p.m. Eastern, 7 p.m. Central time -- the first hour of prime time, the family hour.
Balcer arrogantly concluded his e-mail debate by sniping that, "I don't think there's much any industry can do to counter Congress' natural inclination to attack straw men, especially in an election cycle." That entire argument is itself a straw man, and he knows it -- as do the 75 percent of Americans demanding greater enforcement of federally mandated decency standards.