The new fall season of television has begun. Oh, joy. What creative license has Hollywood taken now? How will this industry top -- because it always must top -- last year's shock? You're a parent. You come home, open the TV book and see listings like this:
"BONES (Season Premiere): A skull smashes through the windshield of a car driven by a group of teenagers on the freeway; a trail of suspects leads Brennan and Booth to a strange cannibalistic society."
A late-night offering for adults? Think again. Fox airs this gruesome twosome tracking the cannibals at 8 p.m. eastern time, 7 p.m. central, otherwise long known as the "family hour" of prime-time television. Once upon a time, network programmers applied the brakes of restraint during the first hour, because children were watching. Today, they're slamming on the accelerator -- shamelessly offering the forbidden fruits of raunchy sex and ultraviolence to kids.
For crude sex jokes, there's the brand-new CBS comedy "The Big Bang Theory." No, this has nothing to do with science. The "big bang" is ... yuk, yuk, yuk. The show is about two physics geeks living across the hallway from a beautiful waitress who is way out of their league. The entire series begins with an awkward trip to a sperm bank, which sets up this family-hour punch line:
Pretty Neighbor: "So, what do you guys do for fun around here?"
Science Geek: "Well, today we tried masturbating for money."
Do you have children, maybe grandchildren? Just imagine them watching this show. Thank you, Hollywood.
The problem only seems to get worse. The Parents Television Council recently completed its latest study of family-hour programming on the networks during the 2006-2007 season. The numbers astound.
Since 2000-2001, violent content during the family hour has increased 52 percent. Sexual content is up 22 percent. Foul language is down 25 percent since 2000-2001. But wait. The decrease is almost entirely due to the drop in less objectionable words like "crap" and "hell." The major curse words have hardly declined at all, just 3 percent.
And that's not all. The total number of bleeped curse words is up 40 percent, and here we're talking about the most outrageous obscenities. And the bleeping masks nothing -- the child can tell exactly which obscenity was intended. The dropping of the bleeped F-bomb has almost doubled per hour of programming, and use of the bleeped S-word is up fourfold.