The article was called "The Decency Police" and it appeared in the March 28th,2005 issue. The article describes the activities of the Parents Television Council. The article describes their job thus:
"In the group's Alexandria, VA., offices, five analysts sit at desks with a VCR, a TV and a computer. They tape every hour of prime time network TV, and a lot of cable."
The PTC documents all cuss words and other assorted things they find offensive on television and enters the information into "the Entertainment Tracking System, the PTC's database on more than 100,000 hours of programming."
In the article, one of the 'analysts' entered the word "damn" into the database from an episode of Crossing Jordan. Said PTC supervisor Melissa Caldwell, "We track even those minor swears because it's a way of tracking trends."
Now Crossing Jordan IS offensive on many levels, primarily because of actor Steve Valentine's bad haircut and the fact that we're supposed to believe that forensic science is actually interesting enough to support four or five major network dramas. (I thought they were pushing the forensic envelope with Quincy).
We need a group to censor
haircuts like this
PTC Executive Director explained that they document "every incident of sexual content, violence, profanity, disrespect for authority and other negative content." As the author of the article, James Poniewozik noted, it's a good thing they don't monitor premium channels because, "an episode of Deadwood would presumably crash the system." (Deadwood is, by the way, the best show on television).
Ok, remember back when you were a kid and you kept track of all the swear words you heard?
Hey Mom! Jordan said 'H-E-double hockey stick!'
How about in Rainman, where Dustin Hoffman's character kept a book of all the little injuries done to him?
That's what the ETS sounds like, Rainman's book run by 3rd graders.
The ETS gets even more silly, it "is thoroughly indexed by theme- 'threesome', 'masturbation', 'obscene gesture'" That's just super, Rainman has gone high tech so the book is all cross referenced and organized and probably has circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one case.
Ok, when Friends was in full bloom and was on at 8:00, I was a tad miffed. I liked the show, my wife liked the show, but our kids were young and were still up at 8:00. As a result, we didn't watch Friends. I would have been happier if Friends was on at 9:00, so that we could watch it after we'd put the kids to bed. Did I form a group? Did I even write a letter? Nope, sorry, I just didn't watch the show. Huh, go figure.
I know enough American history to know that this "busy-body" trend is not something that's growing out of control, but rather something that's very ingrained in the American character and was far far worse in earlier times. It's really some guy's twisted version of "old time values", except the problem is that in this high-tech age, busy-bodies can get themselves heard, and with our Republican Party trying desperately to court the Conservative Christians, stupid things like a bare bottom on a cartoon* and Janet Jackson's desperate Superbowl cry for attention suddenly become issues. Have you seen the number of people who actually called to complain about Janet Jackson's boob by the way? Compared to the number of people who saw it, the number of complainers is almost infinitesimal. In my world we'd just tell those ten people to shut the hell up, not form committees to figure out ways to change television.
Apparently the Parents Television Council took the day
off, or we never would have been exposed to this kind of smut.
By definition, "busy-bodies" get involved in other people's business. They stick their noses in and they put their two cents worth in. One of the ways they do this is by writing letters to newspapers and calling television stations to complain. The most important way they act, though, is by voting. I would say that there's a massive number of Americans who don't give enough of a rat's ass to get out and vote, which is how we wind up with people like Michael Powell and now Kevin Martin, appointed as Chairmen of the FCC.
*Fox edited an episode of the Family Guy, a cartoon, when one of the characters (Baby Stewie!) bared his bottom! It's a frickin' cartoon!
Here's an example that scared me worse than the cartoon baby bottom.
According to the Time article:
"Last year, in response to viewer complaints, the FCC levied its largest TV fine ever, $1.2 million, against Fox for an episode of the reality show Married by America, which featured strippers covered in whipped cream. The commission said the broadcast had generated 159 letters of complaint. Jeff Jarvis, a former TV critic who writes the blog BuzzMachine.com, filed a Freedom of Information Act request to see the letters. Because of multiple mailings, the letters came from just 23 people, 21 of whom used a form."
Oh my God! 23 busy bodies complained! We're a nation of how many people? You know that those 23 people voted. Did you?
This is why I'm running for King of the Frickin' World, to clear up this silliness. There have to be alien planets watching our idiocy as their version of reality tv, so it's about time we started at least having fun with the silliness.