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Still Shooting It up on TV

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
Adweek reporter Katy Bachman obviously doesn't know how silly she sounds. She recently passed along the intelligence that TV and movie industries would be "fulfilling a promise made to Vice President Joe Biden that they would be part of the solution to curb gun violence." They've taken the Newtown massacre to heart and toned down the violence of TV and movies?

That's something they promise after every mass shooting. Sometimes they actually act on the promise. For a day. Maybe two. And as soon as the heat is off, it's back to business as usual.

No, this time it's even less. They are simply recycling ridiculous old ads telling parents to be the "boss" of their children and it's considered "news." Bachman isn't enough of a jaded reporter to capture the sheer corporate cynicism she was peddling on Hollywood "solutions" to crime.

This is sort of like a factory that pollutes the local river and then considers it a "solution" to put out an ad campaign telling parents to buy their children waders that they were selling so the children could enjoy the river. Then the waders are full of holes. That's the way America's entertainment factory works. Hollywood came out of a phony-baloney meeting with Biden in January making a phony-baloney promise that they would work harder to sell the "tools" that would help parents block programming that could be too sexual or violent or profane. Their self-protective TV ratings system blocks almost nothing. To call it a bad joke is an insult to bad jokes.

The Parents Television Council decided to demonstrate the insincerity of the TV networks about depictions of violence. They watched a month of primetime programming from Jan. 11 (the day after the Biden meeting) through Feb. 11. Out of 392 total programs that aired during the study period, 193 of them (almost half) contained violence; and 121 of them (nearly one-third) contained gun violence.

As for the ratings system, every single program that contained violence (including the gunplay) during the study period was rated either TV-PG or TV-14. Nothing was ever found to be for "mature audiences only." ABC and NBC failed to provide reliably the "V" descriptor for violence.


CBS easily wins a competition for the most violent network in that month. In 92 CBS shows, there were 57 with violence, and 50 of those with gun violence. They showed 322 violent scenes.

The PTC's own articles on the "Worst of the Week" TV programs tell the tale. On Feb. 21, the ultra-violent CBS show "Criminal Minds" tracked a serial killer who likes to mutilate the genitals of his murder victims. But the show had a "progressive" twist: it turns out the killer was a sympathetic, a gay man named Paul whose father tried "conversion therapy" on him, including paying a prostitute to molest him.

The gay man eventually seeks revenge against his father, trying to pressure his companion to rape his father at gunpoint. You see, his companion had also been traumatized by the conversion therapy program at "Camp Willing." Paul sought revenge: "They all thought that they could rape us straight. I think it's time we see if it works the other way around." Stripped down to his underwear, the father grabs the gun and it accidentally fires, killing the companion. Paul shoots his father as the show's FBI heroes arrive on the scene.

Or take this show within the PTC's study period: Fox's premiere of the new Kevin Bacon crime show, "The Following," on Jan. 24. Bacon's character is chasing a serial killer with a cult of followers. In one scene, Bacon confronts the serial killer at the crime scene of his latest grotesque amputation and murder. The killer announces, "You know, the human eye is connected by seven muscles. I removed each one individually. Do you know how hard that is to do?" The killer releases a rope, dropping a woman's lifeless body in front of Bacon's character. He looks into her bloody, empty eye sockets as the killer announces, "She lasted much longer than I thought she would."


That wasn't the only eye gouging in the Fox premiere. A woman in the killer's cult brandished a long icepick and uttered, "Lord, help my poor soul" and then crammed the icepick into her eye socket. She twitched and died in front of onlookers.

Networks executives like Nina Tassler at CBS will admit they don't allow their own children to watch shows like "Criminal Minds." But they can't be honest enough to send the rest of America's parents that message in their own pathetic ratings systems. To them, graphic violence is not their responsibility, and it requires only a useless Band-Aid solution.

It takes a fool to accept a "solution" like this -- which explains why they briefed Joe Biden.

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