Naughty shows. There are a lot of naughty shows on TV, whether it's sex, language, violence or bad writing (sorry Writers Guild but it's not as if everything your members create is necessarily brilliant – there are a number of scripted shows that I'd pass up for a reality show like The Amazing Race...or even Big Brother). And the truth, which no one at the Parents Television Council will ever admit, is that bad writing (and bad acting and bad direction, but mostly bad writing) trumps sex, language, and violence for making a show bad. The critics – the real ones as opposed to amateurs like me – laud a show like Dexter because of the writing and the acting and the directing. But of course the PTC doesn't care about the quality of stories. The PTC are a bunch of bean counters who enumerate the number of incidents of sexual content, expletives (deleted or not) and acts of violence. And it is of course the PTC which defines what constitutes a "violent act" or a "sexual encounter" or even tells us what an expletive is.
So what is my methodology in defining these five shows that the PTC seems to consider the naughtiest on TV? Well, in this particular case being a bean counter is an appropriate technique. The PTC currently has four weekly – or mostly weekly – columns on their site that I regularly take apart in my "Who does the PTC hate this week" pieces. They are: Broadcast Worst of the Week, Cable Worst of the Week, Misrated, and TV Trends. My technique is to simply count up the number of times that the PTC has mentioned shows in different weeks in these columns. For example, if Family Guy was mentioned as being horrible in these columns on two different weeks it gets two points, but if (as actually happened more than once) Family Guy was mentioned in two different columns in one week it only got one point. There are a couple of faults in this methodology of course. For one thing, only Broadcast Worst of the Week (originally called Television's Worst of the Week) has run through the year. For another thing there were weeks in which I didn't record anything, not because the PTC didn't have anything to complain about but because I didn't write a piece. And last (and least in terms of methodology) the TV Trends columns tend to mention a number of shows. That one at least I'm willing to live with.
So what are the five worst shows as defined by the PTC? In something approaching reverse order they are:
- American Dad: Three mentions mostly for sexual content. In recent columns they protested the inclusion of a child molester as a character and managed to condemn the show for using homosexual stereotypes but at the same time criticized the show for depicting the main character's attempts at experimentation with homosexual activity.
- My Name Is Earl: Three mentions. Sexual content surrounding Joy's promiscuity and Catalina's work as a stripper of course but the main thing seems to be that the show doesn't do what they want it to. They want the show to be about personal redemption and doing good deeds. On the other hand the show has become about what some people would describe as "trailer trash." The trouble is that Earl, his family and friends have always been "trailer trash" and Earl's list has rarely been anything other than an excuse to show Earl's world.
- The Family Guy: Four mentions. As usual, sexuality is at the forefront, what with Lois having had numerous sexual encounters before her marriage to Peter. They are also disturbed by Stuey's repeated attempts at (or fantasies about) killing his mother, and Brian (the alcoholic talking dog) and his fantasies. In one incident Brian seemed to have a sadistic sexual reaction to means in which Stuey would try to kill Lois slowly.
- Nip/Tuck: Five mentions. Ostensibly the show the PTC hated the most. As usual the big argument was sex and nudity but a major contention this season was the presence of Eden, an 18 year old patient about whom one of the doctors had sexual fantasies and then sexual encounters with. The PTC contended that the depiction of one of these encounters would "validate" the sexual activities of pedophiles (the doctor was in his early 40s) undoubtedly forgetting that in every state in the United States an 18 year old has passed the age of majority and can have sex with whoever he or she wishes.
- Rescue Me: I've only got two notes for this one, but I know that the PTC has this show on their hit list and I just know that there were a lot of mentions in the weeks where I wasn't writing about the PTC. They loathe this show. They hate it for the repeated use of swearing, they hate it for the repeated sexual situations including an act of sexual violence – or was it something that started as rape and became consensual? – and they hated it for violence, real or supposed.
There are a lot of runners up, and a lot of that has to do with the way in which the PTC counts acts. The depiction of an autopsy, or indeed a dead body at the scene of a crime, is called a violent act. A brief (under five seconds) shot of the side of a stripper's breast (in a recent episode of Las Vegas) is so vilely sexual that the PTC actually had their minions in the Central and Mountain time zones initiate an obscenity complaint to the FCC. They claimed that at the end of an episode of Private Practice Addison "holding the showerhead preparing to masturbate." Except you know, she wasn't. But of course the PTC is so often all about the innuendo rather than the reality of the thing.