What the hell is going on with network TV anyway? Has the quest for the almighty sponsor’s dollar become the only motivating factor for what shows get put on the air? Is the race for ratings so damn important that network execs and programmers have to resort to scrapping the bottom of the barrel in poor taste to attract viewers? It used to be only Cable Networks did that. I tell you it’s really shameless! Speaking of which, Showtime’s series “Shameless” is a perfect example of tasteless TV and is one of the most controversial shows on TV right now. Want to know what an extremely dysfunctional family is like? Just check out “Shameless” and the Gallagher family and friends, you won’t be disappointed, it is the epitome of crass.
Of course, the Gallagher family is not alone Showtime also has the quite interesting show “Californication” with its endless parade of nudity, fornication, and drugs crosses the line on decency and makes a mockery of love. And let’s not forget “House of Lies” which also cross the line on tastelessness and greed. It’s all about the winner take all, big score and sex of course. Wouldn’t you know Showtime had the great idea of putting all three shows on the same night, back to back! Sunday, trash night. But hey, at least they’re on Showtime and not network TV. Yeah, I often wonder who watches this demented crap besides myself. That’s right, I watch these show. Hey, I like David Duchovny is Californication personified! I’ve liked him since X-Files and Frank Gallagher as portrayed by Frank H. Macy, is fantastic. His portrayal of a lost alcoholic, drug abuser is incredible. Yeah he really does a fine bit of acting here and at times reminds me of my old departed buddy Brian who struggled with alcoholism. Showtime’s shows are quite graphic and over the top, but at least they’re on pay TV.
Needless to say, network TV is doing its worst to catch up and are certainly not far behind. In fact, all that’s missing is total nudity and the ‘F’ word. Last year the networks brought us a host of tasteless shows that failed miserably like the “The Playboy Club,””Good Christian Bitches,” “Don’t Trust the B—-(bitch) in Apt. 23,” “2 Broke Girls,” and a reworked “Two and a Half Men,” All cross the line of good taste and only two “2 Broke Girls” and “Two and a Half Men” survived to face a second season. Then of course there are two of my favorites “Revenge,”and “Scandal,”which are somewhat better, but still unethical. I remember when “Desperate Housewives” first began and was the talk of the town and considered much too provocative for network TV. Hell, if it came out today it would be considered mild compared to some of the newer shows.
We all know sex sells. Networks know it too. That’s why we’re inundated with tasteless programming inherently linked to sexual situations and humor, partial nudity and some very obvious sexual innuendos. It’s all over the networks. The real problem here is not the nature of the material being shown, but it’s suitability for children and its availability. I remember a time when the more racy, adult fare wasn’t broadcast until 10pm. Then somewhere along the line it became 9pm. Now it’s sometimes as early as 8pm. The tasteless “2 Broke Girls” is on at 8:30pm. Although the premise is rather innocent, two young women working as waitresses trying to start a cupcake business, it’s the wordplay that makes it so crass. The show is loaded with some very racy and sexually oriented one liners about masturbation, intercourse, orgasms, whatever! Funny? at times I suppose, but appropriate for children, no way. I could cite any number of examples but won’t, you can check out the show any Monday night and see for yourself. I do not care for the show yet find myself watching just to see how far they will go for a laugh. I do the same with “2 and a Half Men.” With Charlie gone the show sucks, and has sunk to a new low to hold on to viewers. Yet I watch on occasion just to see how low they will go.
Okay network execs, not all kids are in bed asleep by the magic hour of 8:00pm when you begin broadcasting your adult oriented programming. Some are still watching TV. But even if they weren’t, those promo ads you run all day long for these shows are pretty darn racy themselves and kids do see them! I’m no prude, but aren’t our kids exposed to enough already? Shouldn’t regular TV be a safe place for children? I think so. When I was growing up many of the networks offered children oriented TV from at least 3:00 -5:00 everyday. Now not a single one does. Networks rely on cable stations to keep the kids entertained, there’s no money in kid TV, besides it frees up valuable hours for adult talk shows and hours of news, not to mention all those money making commercial minutes.
We’ve come a long way from the Leave It To Beaver and Father Knows Best era where a kids could actually learn something about right and wrong, consequences, friends and family relationships. Sheriff John, Engineer Bill, the Mickey Mouse Club and a host of Hanna-Barbera cartoon shows were good enough for me and most baby boomers when we got home from school, but what do our kids have when they get home? A few series reruns, but otherwise there is really nothing on network TV after school. Kids must turn to cable for children programming. Yeah somehow Sponge Bob, NinjaGo, Johnny Bravo and Pokemon fall far short of what I would call quality afternoon fare for our kids. Network TV is dying on the vine. They can’t compete with Showtime, HBO, Cinemax or some of the other cable networks. They need to realize this and stop trying to draw in the adult viewers with their ‘Scandalous’ programming. Perhaps the time is right for a return to good old, family (and I do mean family) oriented fare. I really believe people will readily embrace quality family entertainment on regular network TV. It shouldn’t be about the ratings but about quality programming. Yeah, like that will ever happen!