PTC admits that the actual content of the 11/9/09 episode of Gossip Girl on CW did not live up to the hype – but it still objects to the hype, and the alleged marketing of the program to teenagers. Meanwhile, rival children’s watchdog Common Sense has not been going nuts about the program but still rates it conservatively.
“Though there was no explicit sex scene on last night’s episode, the CW Network’s behavior was grossly irresponsible by adding a story line where a sexual threesome was to be celebrated as some sort of ‘rite of passage’ for teenagers. The network inserted this story line into a program that they themselves deem to be appropriate for 14-year-old children based on its content rating,” said PTC President Tim Winter.
Common Sense also notes that the program is rated TV-14, and almost agrees with that rating, giving it its own score of 15-18. It goes a bit farther than just picking the ages, saying that the program is “iffy” for ages 15-18, certainly giving parents fair warning to look into it if they have any concerns.
CS notes that there are good and bad characters, and much of the content deals with people treating each other badly, dabbling in alcohol, tobacco and drugs, dealing with sexual situations, etc. The topics are not presented in a way to educate or illuminate. CS says of the topics, “…they’re not addressed in constructive or realistic ways.”
RBR-TVBR observation: Neither watchdog is a big fan of this show – Common Sense finds it obsessed with various bad behaviors, just as PTC does. But CS is content to detail its lack of artistic merit and let parents decide, while the PTC approach seems only to help broaden the show’s audience.
Listen: We’re talking about prime time commercial television. If a teenage version of Upstairs Downstairs could sell zippy breath mints and lush shampoo, we’re sure the networks would be all over it. But it doesn’t. We’re sorry, but primetime network television is rarely on the cutting edge of fine artistic expression; nor is it known for its deep and penetrating exploration of the human condition.
And it’s not like suddenly television was invented, people watched it and started to behave badly because of what they saw there. These behaviors have been indulged in for eons before electricity was harnessed. Teenagers have been exploring these areas since time immemorial – they have, they do, and they will – with or without TV and with or without PTC.
PTC is free to make as much noise as it wants. That is its right under the Constitution. Likewise, the rights of program producers need to be protected. If CW is guilty of an actionable indecency infraction, than so be it. But if not, PTC and CS are free to warn people away, and try to steer advertisers clear of the network, but they can’t force it off the airwaves.