January 2000 – Has this happened to you lately? You’re sitting in your den watching a ball game or a newscast with your children and a commercial for an upcoming television show comes on with some character using an off-color sex joke, the laugh track rolls, and you cringe at what you saw and heard. Most parents can identify with this scenario in one form or another.
I remember the last network television series that I had any interest in was NBC’s sitcom Seinfeld, which ran from 1991-1998. I really enjoy a good comedy. But as I watched one evening in 1992 the characters were in a booth at a diner when conversation turned to the subject of sexual self-gratification. I was extremely disappointed and turned off the TV. I think I have only watched one or two regular network programs since.
I do think God cares about what we choose to listen to and view. I heard it put this way one time: would you sit down and watch this television show, view this movie or listen to this music if Jesus were sitting right beside you? It’s a good question for a Christian to ask. Because He is (sitting right beside you).
A few years back you may remember there was a controversy over NYPD Blue, a new television series on ABC. AFA was one of the organizations raising concerns when producer Stephen Bochco said he wanted network television to be more “realistic” with its language, violence and sexuality. At the time, AFA said what ABC and Bochco would be doing was breaking down barriers for even more crude, more profane programming on the public airwaves. Well, that is exactly what has happened.
• Consider that for the first time this fall the use of the “s” word on network television on CBS’s Chicago Hope.
• Of the 80 shows AFA reviewed for this new fall season, 33 used the male sex organ in their dialogue. Bathroom type humor is very popular on prime-time network TV.
• NBC’s teaser for a November 1 episode of Law & Order – Special Victim’s Unit featured a bloody body lying in the street with 37 stab wounds. A second storyline tells of a man molesting a corpse, and a third is that of a man who exposes himself.
On major network programming there are few shows that would be called family-friendly. The highly successful Touched by an Angel on CBS is a rare exception. And there is an occasional made for television movie that doesn’t resort to sex, violence or raw language. But by and large, the people in Hollywood who write, direct, act in, and produce network television fare are infatuated with sex, violence, perversion and more sex; they take great pride in seeing how many curse words they can get in during a half hour and still have a storyline.
And even the advertisers are getting bolder, hoping crudeness will help sell their products.
Recently, the Duncan Toy company ran an advertisement for their new “Hard core” yo-yo line featuring 30 seconds of one person after another – 17 in fact – sticking their middle fingers to the camera. “You give us the finger, we’ll give you the power,” is the punchline of the commercial.
Also this fall was the debut of the 7-Up television ad (owned by the Dr. Pepper soft drink company) featuring a young man who is shown as creating the ad for the soft drink. He puts the words “Make 7” on the front of his T-shirt and “up yours” on the back, then proceeds to walk down the city street saying “Up yours!” to everyone he meets.
Even 10 years ago, reputable advertisers would not have even considered using openly anti-social crudity and vulgarity to advertise their products. Sadly, the times have changed.
Remember the Columbine tragedy in the spring? Howard Stern went on national radio a day after 12 boys and girls and one teacher were murdered, and made sexual jokes about the teenage girls who were slain. Do you know what company makes millions of dollars off Stern? CBS. Was there one word of condemnation for these remarks or any of the obscene things Stern says and does on a daily basis by CBS brass? Absolutely not. He is their cash cow and money is all they care about. (CBS airs Stern’s television show in several large markets on Saturday nights.)
Ironically, I think the rise in cable TV over the last few years has occurred because many Americans are tired of the anti-family fare being dished out by the networks, and are looking for alternatives.
There are a couple of bits of good news to report. There was a recent announcement by the WB Television Network that several major corporations including Johnson & Johnson and Proctor & Gamble among others, are combining their efforts to produce a wholesome new television series which should be available next fall. And AFA, along with Focus on the Family and the Southern Baptist Convention, will be resurrecting Christian Leaders for Responsible Television (CLEAR-TV) soon to try and bring some accountability to corporate America for what kind of programs they support with their advertising dollars.
But as far as this fall’s network prime-time lineup goes, I’m sorry to say, there is not much to be