Sunday, October 30, 2005

The best of TV, from a bunch of people morally superior to you

The Parents Television Council is one of those Religious Right "watchdog" groups who patrol the airwaves looking for moral terpitude from which to protect us. Dunno about you, but I certainly sleep better at night knowing that Brent Bozell and his cohorts have, at some point during the preceding day, seen something on television that appalled and offended them to their very souls, and, while I am drifting peacefully to sleep, they are curled in the fetal position with their Bibles, mumbling desperate, tearful prayers.

Every year these assclowns fine upstanding pillars of the community assemble their "10 best and worst TV shows list". You know they've had a great year when they boast that they couldn't even find ten shows to put in the "best" category.

Now, I should disclose something right here. I don't watch TV. My industry is film, which is related, I know, but the making of films and TV shows is a fairly similar process and I certainly feel a kinship with the poor grunts who work on them. As a PA I've worked on my share of TV shoots; the days are just as long and grueling, if not moreso, than for a feature. You wouldn't believe how much hard work goes into putting the dumbest programs on the air. One of the best shoots I ever worked on was for a brainless MTV prank show called Boiling Points; I wouldn't watch that in a million years, but I loved earning $150 a day hanging out on South Padre during spring break! What other job offers that kind of guilty satisfaction?

Having stated my solidarity with the poor crews, I'll happily confess: I just have no interest in watching 99% of the feeble crap dished out on the airwaves. I got rid of my cable as I couldn't justify the expense for something I was using less and less. Once in a blue moon, when a show comes on that does impress me (Deadwood), I know there will be DVDs soon to help me get caught up.

So...since I admit I don't like television myself, why do I dog on groups like the PTC who, if you were to ask them, would doubtlessly innocently claim that they're only out there rooting for good wholesome entertainment? Well, partly it's due to their affiliation with the Religious Right, a group we all love to hate. But mainly it's because, as card-carrying RR-ers, they use only the most banal and superficial standards for critiquing shows. Sex, violence and profanity are pretty much it. Incidents of these things are checklisted, regardless of their contextual use in the shows. Any themes — even morally defensible ones — are usually lost in the PTC's obsessive cataloguing of content that triggers their "oh no Billy cover your eyes!" reflexes.

Here is their list for this year:

Now, note what's on the "worst" list: naturally, some of the most popular shows on the air. What's ironic about this is that the far right constantly castigates evil liberal Hollywood for being "out of touch" with what they call "mainstream" (but really mean "their own") values. But if this is so, why are these horrible, evil, amoral shows among the highest-rated? Could it be, perhaps, that most Americans do not, in fact, allow the television shows they watch to dictate their personal morality, but are simply capable of enjoying them as fluff entertainment, even if they have an off-color joke or three? (My parents, devout Episcopalians, love Two and a Half Men. I guess I'll have to phone them and tell them they aren't good Christians now.) Furthermore, could it be that parents are perfectly capable of deciding for themselves what shows are or aren't appropriate for their kids without instructions from self-appointed morality cops like Bozell? Discuss.

Since I don't watch the idiot box unless I'm playing a DVD or XBox game, I thought I'd read what the PTC had to say about some of the shows on their "best" list. About the reality show (I really really hate that term, mainly as I know from firsthand experience working on the crews of some that most of them are actually scripted and/or staged) Three Wishes, this: "This fall, NBC showed us the heights to which reality TV can aspire with its wonderful new series, Three Wishes. The series follows hosts Amy Grant, Carter Oosterhouse, Diane Mizota, and Eric Stromer. Each week the team visits a different town and grants three wishes to various townspeople or the community itself."

Well, that sounds sweet, though I probably wouldn't be a good contestant on it as my first wish would be "I'd like to bang Amy Grant." But look at what they have to say about that evil #1 rated show C.S.I.: "Kicking off the May sweeps on April 28, 2005 with the episode entitled "Committed," C.S.I. delivered a disgusting and depraved hour of incest, murder and even cannibalism... C.S.I. routinely seeks to dwell in the depths of humanity's most dark and evil elements. In “Committed,” the writers sought to entertain the audience through a dark and twisted scenario. It is hard to argue the artistic value of such filth, and it is certainly never appropriate for innocent children to watch."

Though I cannot vouch for the accuracy of all that's portrayed in the show, and I wouldn't deny the use of lurid content to hook viewers (hey, it works!), part of the artistic value of this "filth" is that it is, in the end, a cop show, showing police officers heroically doing the most dangerous thing anyone can do for a living. As sickening as anything the show might depict, if any of the shrinking violets on the PTC's staff were to thumb through the content of some actual police files, they'd have fucking coronaries. Furthermore, C.S.I. has spurred public interest in forensic science and has even prompted juries to pay greater attention to forensic evidence.

So that's the artistic value of that "filth," Brent.

But hey, maybe you guys are right. We should all be watching Three Wishes instead. Then we could all just wish our world free of bad people and crime, and Amy Grant would fly up on her magic carpet and twinkle it all away with a wave of her glittery wand!

1 comment:

Denise V. said...

I watch the top three of the "worst" shows - and IIRC none of any of the rest, most of the rest of my TV viewing is cooking shows and documentaries. They may not be family fare by a long shot, but they're sure as hell not promoted as such either, so I don't see what the big deal is. Not everything has to be shiny happy joyous stories - well, maybe to these idiots, it has to be.