04 October 2008

What's going on at the Parents Television Council? (Oct. 4, 2008)

[Before I get to the juicy realm of the PTC a little personal note:] This morning I took the SAT college entrance examination at my school, the second time after receiving a 1990 from the May 2008 administration. After getting to my senses and studying some more vocabulary and math strategies over the summer, I'm confident that I'll get a score at least in the 2000 range this time. If I still get lower than 2100 my brain might as well be wired for the ACT instead. Now that the SAT is out of the way my focus now will shift to driver's education and college applications.

Now to the PTC, in the abscence of PTC posts from the I Am a Child of TV blog (last time a "Who does the PTC hate This Week?" was posted was 15 August) Basically, over the past few weeks or so PTC has been focusing on:
- FCC Complaints (Regarding alleged indecency on Survivor: Gabon [CBS] and Today [NBC])
- Dr. Delman L. Coates, leader of the "Enough is Enough" campaign and advisor for PTC's April 2008 Rap on Rap research report, joins the Advisory Board
- Regarding CW's new show 90210 (remake of the 1990s Fox series Beverly Hills, 90210) Darden Restaurants, which owns such chains as Olive Garden and Red Lobster, wins the "Seal of Approval" for pulling out sponsorship the show; PTC also praised the CW network itself for allowing some advertiser advance screening after it reportedly did not.
- PTC has filed an amicus curiae brief to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) "against NYPD Blue" (in case you don't understand the controversy surrounding Blue, an award-winning crime drama that ran on ABC from 1993-2005, see this article from The Washington Post)
- And finally, an appeal to both "Democrats and Republicans" to advance "cable choice"

The following are the latest items from PTC's weekly entertainment reviews, updated 3 Oct.
- Best Show of the Week: Extreme Makeover: Home Edition (ABC) (I've seen PTC award EMHE "Best Show" 15 or more times before in the past year)
- Worst Show of the Week: Survivor (CBS) (all because of the indecent incident, see below)
- Worst Cable Content of the Week: Skins (BBC America)
- Misrated: N/A (most recent was the Gossip Girl report from 12 September)
- TV Trends: "Broadcast Networks: More Gore in Store For Viewers"

Now for my opinions on PTC's latest front-page headlines. Could the Survivor: Gabon wardrobe malfunction - in which part of the penis of contestant Marcus Lehman (not sure if he's related to the Lehman Brothers) flew out of his boxers for just less than a second in normal video time - be a repeat of the Janet Jackson "Nipplegate" scandal from the 2004 Super Bowl Halftime Show? The episode originally aired on CBS Thurs., 25 Sept.; the earliest source that I could find reporting on the nudity was a Defamer blog post from Monday the 29th. Next day on my RSS reader (feed of Google News searching keyword "Parents Television Council" exact phrase) came both PTC and Broadcasting & Cable reporting on the exposure; following up were news outlets Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Cleveland Plain Dealer, E! Online, KNBC Television, Knoxville News-Sentinel and The Washington Post; and blogs Buzzkilled, Jossip and TMZ. Dang, that was a LOT of blog attention spawned by PTC! But here's my question: How come it took an entire weekend for the PTC to figure out that it was indeed Lehman's penis. All the video I've been able to find was either modified or slo-mo so I can't judge anything for now. PTC even acknowledges that it took high technology rather than real-time viewing to see Lehman's private: "...in the age of HD, digital video recorders, and high-speed internet, it quickly became immortalized as an unending slow-motion loop on numerous blogs." That's true, given all the links I've provided. Now that PTC's admitted it, I suppose it's just another badge on PTC's overcrowded coat of achievements and milestones, to ensure that the networks get as much money sucked out by the FCC as possible so that they can stop producing all that sludge that's destroying our children's innocence. Wait, actually only girls' innocences are at risk here; don't males already know what their privates look like? (another issue at stake here is the disturbance of being "flashed") Compare the five-day reaction time to realise, "Oh no! That was a penis!" to the less-than-12-hour reaction to Hans Lange's S-word on his 11 Sept. Today show interview (PTC's press release in response to that is dated 11 September)

Next is the Cable Worst of the Week, Skins, which currently airs in the US on the BBC America cable channel, which last time I checked is available only on digital cable/satellite in my area and possibly other places. I first heard of the show on the 19 September TV Trends column "Britain pushes Gossip Girl envelope with Skins". According to the author, the show "was nominated for British Academy of Film and Television Arts awards (equivalent to the American Emmys) for Best Drama and Break-Thru Talent...won for Best Title Sequence...[and] was also given the prestigious Europe-wide Rose d’Or award for Best Drama in 2008."

As I'm reading down the transcript provided in the column, I'm a bit shocked to see that such language would be used in an ostensibly "Teen-targeted" programme; this show sounds more like The Sopranos, whose first season I've been watching lately on DVD and enjoying. Columnist Christopher Gildemeister also asserts that in the UK Skins is shown on digital-cable channel E4, owned by broadcaster Channel 4. Wikipedia claims that Channel 4 (a terrestrial channel over in Britain) shows the series "3 days after the digital". Wikipedia's entry about the programme also lists channels worldwide that reportedly show Skins; the earliest timeslots for the show are apparently in New Zealand (8:30 PM Mondays, C4TV) Norway (8:40 PM Thursdays, NRK). Everywhere else, you'll have to stay up past 10PM local time (or 22:00 as they might say), since those nations might have American type of sensitivities to Sopranos-level swearing and sexuality.

Now it's pretty dubious to consider Skins "teen-targeted" to begin with; in the US, BBC America rates the show "TV-MA". Or is this another type of "Family Guy strawman" that PTC uses to consider the "TV-14" Family Guy targeted to children (I mean younger than 14 if that's what they mean). If that's the case then I guess it's absolutely absurd to compare Skins with Gossip Girl - I've followed much of the first GG season, and the storylines seem much more polished and thoughtful compared to the alleged cheap raunch of Skins. In fact, the official sites of Skins for the US, UK, and NZ all have "mature audience" warnings!

The TV Trends author also suggests that "the show’s rancid content which should cause every parent who receives BBC America to look into blocking the channel" - using the standard "every American pays for every channel" rhetoric used all the campaign for cable choice. Really? Never mind the other less ranchy shows on BBC America! Any parent wishing to find out if BBC America really belongs on the family cable lineup would want to look up Common Sense Media's list of BBCA shows - there seem to be family-friendly programmes on BBCA like You Are What You Eat, Top Gear, and Cash in the Attic. And BBCA also has a daily World News America show and has even broadcast the US presidential debates! Did you know that BBC also produced ABC's Dancing with the Stars, a show that PTC has frequently lauded It ain't the end of the world yet...

Regarding me and British TV, the only BBC programme I watch regularly is the simulcast of the BBC World News on my local PBS station. I've also watched some of the BBC-produced documentary Planet Earth (shown in the US on the Discovery Channel) and on PBS earlier in the year I watched the BBC's miniseries adaption of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, a novel I studied in AP English Literature at the time. Where I live, the PBS stations (KQED and KTEH) show heavy bunch of British programming, such as Doctor Who (the old version) and Are You Being Served?, in addition to BBC World News. Heroes, a favourite show of mine that's on NBC, is shown on BBC2 in UK!

Unfortunately my only choice if I ever want to watch Skins is to either download it illegally of P2P (and avoid subsidising BBC America for importing that trashy show across the Atlantic, as PTC suggests) or to find a friend who legally subscribes to digital cable/satellite and ask for a DVR copy.

Moving on to Dr. Coates' entry into The PTC Advisory Board: I appreciate what he's done to advise the PTC to take action against the flood of trashy, sleazy rap videos that used to be rampant on MTV and BET when kids could be watching. However, PTC has yet to report on BET's "cleaner" lineup, which includes the former WB network sitcom Smart Guy (a past "Best Show of the Year" as ranked by PTC) or The Steve Harvey Show, a more reverent type of show. Also for some reason Rap City is not going to be shown on BET next week, but for now it's too early to determine cancellation status. Finally, MTV hasn't shown Sucker Free since June - JUNE! - but PTC has been long silent on this and other "improvements" while having time to report on other trivial business like the Survivor: Gabon wardrobe malfunction. I wish PTC would at least report more on "positive" programming on TV rather than focus on cleaning up the "negative" - given PTC's influence upon FCC legislation would PTC influence viewership well by promoting the good stuff rather than stressing the bad stuff?

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