CBS Wins the ‘TV Hall of Shame’ Honor
- Written by George Hall
CBS appears to be aiming for their own wing in the television hall of shame. CBS brought us the shameful Janet Jackson chapter in Super Bowl history. They signed and then promptly violated an agreement with the FCC by re-airing a teen orgy scene found to be in violation of broadcast decency laws. They also bring us the purely gratuitous annual Victoria’s Secret infomercial – er, “Fashion Show,” and “Big Brother,” which seems to exist for the sole purpose of catching couples having sex on camera. Now CBS is aiming to hit an all-time low. Let’s get a psychopathic serial killer and make him…the HERO! This is what CBS is planning to bring into America’s living rooms starting Feb. 17. Dexter was originally developed for Showtime where it could be viewed by adults who enjoy this type of “edgy” programming and are willing to pay extra to watch. Now, due to the writer’s strike, CBS is bringing this horrific pay-cable series to free, prime-time broadcast TV. The hero of this sinister series is Dexter Morgan, a Miami police department blood spatter expert who has a secret life as a vigilante serial killer. Dexter’s adoptive police officer father discovered Dexter’s pathology early on, and taught him how to turn it to “good” by teaching him to kill people who have evaded justice. He also taught Dexter how to cover up his crimes to avoid getting caught. CBS will tell you that they will edit out the gore for broadcast TV. OK, let’s give them the benefit of the doubt there. The biggest problem with this series, however, is something no amount of editing can get around - the series compels viewers to feel empathy for a serial killer, to root for him to prevail, and to hope he doesn’t get discovered. There is no denying TV’s influence, and that influence is especially concerned with television shows centered around “anti-heroes” or “criminal protagonist”, because audiences come to see their actions as not only justified, but heroic. Don’t trust me on this, the AMA, APA, AAP, and basically every other respected medical and scientific group possible agree that aggressive behavior is more likely to be learned or imitated if social models – either real or fictional – are either rewarded or do not receive punishment for aggressive behavior. Of course everyone who watches Dexter is not going to automatically turn into a serial killer – but we all need to be aware of the potential impact normalizing this kind of character can have on future generations. Even CBS President and CEO Les Moonves acknowledges as much. In the wake of the tragedy at Columbine, Moonves said, “Anyone who thinks the media has nothing to do with this is an idiot.” CBS and its defenders will claim that the network is being responsible by scheduling Dexter for the latest time slot, 9 p.m. But we should not trust CBS’s motives for bringing this series to broadcast television, nor should we trust that the late time slot will protect innocent children from being exposed to the gruesome content or its destructive influences. Most 10 p.m. dramas – many of which contain intense violence or sexual content – are viewed by hundreds of thousands of children under the age of 18 and as young as 2-11. For example, in one week in December 2007, C.S.I. Miami was watched by over 800,000 children under the age of 18 – more than half of them between the ages of 2-11. Regardless of whether or not children watch Dexter, we know that content that airs during the 10 p.m. hour eventually finds its way into programs watched by millions of impressionable children. This move by CBS sets a dangerous precedent by making acceptable for all hours of prime time content that is harmful to children and devastating for society. We in the Houston area do not want Dexter on broadcast TV. Keep it on premium cable where adults who choose to seek such “edgy” content can continue to pay for access. Our CBS affiliate can and should choose not to air this program. If parents do not stand up now, CBS and other broadcast networks will inevitably air even more egregious content in the future. George Hall Houston Chapter Director Parents Television Council The Parents Television Council (www.parentstv.org) is a non-partisan education organization advocating responsible entertainment.