Sunday, November 26, 2006

Short Takes – November 26, 2006

Haven’t been doing much blogging this week. Too much other stuff going on. I have a ton of stuff on tape that I need to get to, including most of Heroes and a couple of new series. There are a couple of shows I haven’t been taping that I should get to work on too. Plus I keep struggling, trying to write something about Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip. It’s just a matter of finding the time and time hasn’t been real abundant lately, and that doesn’t look likely to change for a couple of weeks. I’ll do what I can, but I can’t guarantee much.

The triumph of mediocrity: Fox showed that they learned nothing from last year’s debacle with Reunion by pulling Vanished from the Friday “death slot” that they assigned the unfinished serial to. The filled that slot with Justice which had been following Prison Break on Monday and not doing well. Meanwhile Fox has given the producers of Standoff and ’Til Death orders for more episodes, six for the former and nine for the latter. I’m sorry, but in my obviously flawed opinion either one of Justice or Vanished is eminently superior to either Standoff or ’Til Death and if Justice were on ABC, CBS or even NBC it would be drawing far better ratings with the cast it has.

A crossover is a terrible thing to waste: Since I didn’t get this up last week I missed the opportunity to comment on last Friday’s episode of Las Vegas which was a November sweeps cross-over with Crossing Jordan. What’s that you say? Crossing Jordan isn’t on? Well you’re right, it isn’t but it was supposed to be on by now. In fact it was supposed to be on in the first hour of Friday night, just before Las Vegas but then someone at NBC had the idea that they should try out a new game show called 1 vs. 100 in that time slot and it hit. So instead of an episode where Danny and Delinda get involved in a case in Boston during their leaf peeping trip to New England, after which Jordan and Woody would fly back to Vegas, what we saw was the second half of a case with no starting point that we know about. This is why stations that strip series in syndication hate crossovers; because they don’t make sense if you don’t have the other show, particularly if the other show has the first half of the crossover. NBC has not yet announced when Crossing Jordan will return, but because they were preparing to start in October or November, they’ve shot an episode where Danny and Delinda show up in Boston on a leaf peeping trip and get involved in a case involving Jordan and Woody. And episodes cost money.

Mixed messages from NBC: NBS is sending seriously mixed messages. On the one hand they renewed Friday Night Lights for the full season, then almost immediately afterwards announced that it had been pulled from its Tuesday night time slot and would be replaced with Dateline NBC, the newsmagazine which has recently been going through a series of staff cuts. This is supposed to begin towards the end of December, which basically coincides with the end of the NFL season so it seems likely that Friday Night Lights will end up on Sunday.

Who does the PTC hate this week?: In terms of Worst Show Of The Week our friends at the PTC seem to be in a bit of a rut. Either that or they have reached the conclusion that this year'’ TV season offers nothing to upset them. No I think they’re in a rut. For the fourth week in a row – unprecedented as far as I’m aware – they’re laying the hate on that episode of Boston Legal with the “incestuous” mother and son.

On the other hand they are going after advertisers with a couple of statements to corporate shareholders meetings. First up was a statement to the board of Clorox by the Director of the Bay Area Chapter of the PTC in which she castigated the company (which had previously won the PTC’s “Advertiser Seal of Approval Award for responsible advertising practices”) for not sponsoring more family friendly programming. In her statement the Bay Area Chapter Director, Debra Timberlake took the company to task for sponsoring shows like Medium, CSI, CSI: Miami, and Two and Half Men which “contained either brutal violence or explicit sexual content.” If the transcript of her statement published on the PTC website is complete, her major concern was with CSI. “During the course of its run the show, CSI featured the following: graphic scenes which depicted cannibalism, a fully nude female corpse, and mutilated victims of a deranged killer. Sexual situations in this series are extremely graphic. In the past, scenes included a brother and sister having sex, men receiving S&M beatings from a dominatrix in a sex club, pornographic snuff films, and a woman making a sex video for her 15-year-old stepson. All shows linked to the CSI franchise have developed increasingly offensive graphic images, including close-ups of corpses with gunshot wounds and other bloody body injuries.” She finishes with the following statement: “You used to be a responsible advertiser but you’ve gotten off course lately. We offer our resources to you and look forward to working with Clorox to get back on the right track and once again support family-friendly programs that truly reflect their corporate philosophy.”

Next up was a shareholders meeting at Microsoft where the PTC’s Manager of Advertising Programs Glen Erickson took Bill Gates and Microsoft to task for their advertising practices, particularly for the Xbox 360. Erickson started off by praising the company and Gates in particular before getting to the meat of the matter: “Microsoft is clearly a leader in the betterment of the lives of children. Mr. Gates, your philanthropic work through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has helped children all around the world. Surely, you understand how Microsoft’s irresponsibility in the media marketplace can undermine your good works. It is a shame that Microsoft cannot demonstrate leadership as a responsible corporate citizen as reflected in the support of the company’s consistent pattern of advertising on some of the most violent and vulgar programming on television.” Erickson then proceeded to list a number of shows that Microsoft advertises on including The Family Guy, CSI, The O.C., and The War at Home before getting to the heart of the matter, the PTC’s continuing war on the FX Network cable series Nip/Tuck. The statement contains some rather graphic language which amazingly enough wasn’t censored on the PTC’s own website! “Last season, the XBOX was advertised in a Nip/Tuck episode that included this exchange between two lead characters: Christian: ‘How would you feel if I took a mold of my cock, passed it around South Beach and called it a career?’ Kimber: ‘If you thought it was a solid business venture, I would let you.’ Christian: ‘Now you’re full of shit.’ Later in the show, the Colleen character approaches Christian and he grabs her hands and presses them to his crotch. And this is a show sponsored by Microsoft’s XBOX.” I can only imagine that the PTC, being under the mistaken belief that since the Xbox is a gaming system the primary market is children. This is inaccurate. according to current data, the average age of the owners of computer game systems is 33 and 69% of systems are owned by people over the age of 18. In other words the target market for a show like Nip/Tuck. Erickson finishes with the following statement: “I am here today to plead with you, on behalf of millions of Americans, to stop underwriting sleaze and adopt responsible advertising guidelines that will keep Microsoft off of programming that contains foul language, gratuitous sex, and graphic violence. Will Microsoft continue paying for the ‘cultural sewage’ that is broadcast into our homes on a nightly basis? Or, will Microsoft be a responsible corporate citizen and dedicate its advertising dollars toward sponsoring pro-social, family-friendly programming. The Parents Television Council would like your response to this question by the first of December so that we may let our 1.1 million members know whether or not Microsoft is dedicated to responsible advertising and not to return to sponsoring some of the most offensive and violent programming on television. I hope that I will be able to tell them that Microsoft is adopting advertising guidelines that reflect its corporate values.” Or to be completely accurate, advertising guidelines that reflects the PTC’s values.

And the contrary view: The Center for Creative Voices in Media filed a brief to overturn “the FCC's recent consistently inconsistent indecency decisions.” This was duly reported in their blog. In the blog entry (and possibly the brief – it’s not entirely clear) they made the following statement:

The results of the FCC’s campaign against broadcast indecency are clear. Much of the programming that is being censored, pushed back to a late hour, or dropped entirely by broadcasters is the very programming that Americans overwhelmingly want to see – some of the highest-quality programming available on television. When the FCC’s inconsistent and confusing indecency decisions force broadcasters to censor, delay, or drop shows like Eyes on the Prize, The War, 9/11 and others, its clear that the high quality television ‘baby’ is being thrown out with the indecent ‘bathwater.'

Many parents want to watch this programming together with their children. By causing quality television to disappear, the FCC has taken a powerful tool out of the hands of parents who use television to open up a dialogue with their kids about controversial topics like violence, poverty, racial disparity, and cultural diversity,” says Peggy Charren, famed children’s television advocate, founder of Action for Children’s Television and winner of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. “Consider how many parents watched Roots with their children and then engaged in a dialogue with them about the issues raised by that provocative program. For the FCC to deny them that opportunity – that’s not helping kids, it’s harming kids.

Organizations like the PTC and other “social conservative” organizations that attempt to use the FCC to enforce their vision of morality on the American TV viewer in the cause of “protecting the children” are enhancing this climate of fear. They don’t need to “succeed” to succeed, only to sew enough fear into broadcasters and advertisers. At the same time the provide a sop to parents who can’t be bothered to pay attention to what their children are watching, let alone watch programs with them and decide for themselves what is appropriate for their children, as individuals. As well, the PTC and their adherents seem to forget the story of the Garden of Eden, where Adam and Eve can be drawn into eating the forbidden fruit because of the fact that it is forbidden without an explanation of why. Parents talking to their children can provide the why one show with strong language or nudity is acceptable while another program is not; organizations which adhere to a rigid agenda can’t and more importantly won’t.

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