This is doubly important because "reality" shows are a top viewing option for children. Of the top 20 shows watched by the nation's youth, only seven were traditional scripted series. The others were "reality" shows like "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" and game shows like "Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?" With the way we have been inundated with gruesome "CSI" knockoffs and sex-obsessed "Grey's Anatomy" spinoffs, it would be nice if somehow the networks and the viewers could sustain more positive, family-friendly "reality" TV shows.
By contrast, six of the top seven scripted shows watched by children carry some of the nastiest sexual and violent content on TV, but also the ones most likely to have a major following among parents, including the aforementioned "CSI" and "Grey's Anatomy." Two of those shows with heavy "adult" themes are Fox's Sunday night cartoons "Family Guy" and "American Dad," a weekly double feature of filth from creator Seth MacFarlane.
"Family Guy" is so prevalent it can be seen at all hours of the day. TBS even shows full episodes on the Internet. It's become a marketing juggernaut. When Fox wanted to hype the debut of its crude R-rated teen comedy "Superbad," it paired the stars with four episodes of "Family Guy" on Fox, including that infamous episode where Bill Clinton is so seductive he has sex with both Peter Griffin and Lois Griffin, the cartoon's leading man and woman.
Now Fox's iconic idiot is even making its way into commercials, with Peter, the obese title character, touting the Subway Feast: "it's as big as my head." Fox's army of merchandisers is delighted. "Subway's attitude and irreverence is the perfect platform for the 'Family Guy' brand's trademark twisted humor," said one Vice President for Spinning Off Sleaze.
The latest "Family Guy" plot featured Peter touting how he tattooed his private parts to look like the space shuttle. As for "American Dad," it recently aired an episode with themes of incestuous masturbation. Perhaps Subway can work all that into a commercial, too.
The network chieftains approving all this "adult" TV would assert that it's unreasonable for parents to think their children aren't exposed to this kind of "reality" in their daily lives at school or in the neighborhood. But if parents worry about the problem of "monkey see, monkey do," nobody's a bigger monkey to children than Hollywood.