TV Networks Ignore Dole Attack Viewers Will Get More Of The Same For The Fall Season
Oh, those devilish trick questions, like the hoary “How long have you been beating your wife?”
Or asking folks in the TV industry if the latest assault on Hollywood values, courtesy of presidential contender Bob Dole, will influence the fall season.
The networks flatly refuse comment; they’re not wading into that quagmire, one executive helpfully explains.
But some producers are willing to respond. In television’s annual ritual of reinventing itself, Dole’s complaints about pop culture’s sex-and-violence fixation will go unheeded, they say.
First, from the West Coast, the voice of the Cultural Elite.
The networks haven’t issued a post-Dole call for producers to avoid the bawdy or bloody, said Dick Wolf, who has shows on NBC (“Law & Order”) and Fox Broadcasting Co. (“New York Undercover”).
What viewers will get next year, based on preview tapes that have started to emerge, is more of what they favored in the ratings this year - saucy comedies like “Friends” and socially aware dramas such as “Law & Order.”
Little violence, but a good-sized dollop of comedic sexual banter and antics and a look at such difficult real-life issues as abortion, violence and racism.
“There has been a sea of change in the American audience toward violence,” Wolf said. “The bulk of the country is not embracing the same type of imagery when I was running ‘Miami Vice’ and it was a top 10 show.”
Attacks like Dole’s, he maintains, are politically motivated and a prelude to censorship, despite disavowals.
“The thing that’s frightening here - and I really do feel like I’ve got my finger in the dike because every time I bring the subject up, they say I’m overreacting - is there is a swing psychology toward some form of censorship.”
Wolf considers the proposed “V-chip,” which would allow the electronic blocking of programs coded objectionable, as a step in that direction.
That would be a step in the right direction, responds L. Brent Bozell, head of the Media Research Center, a Virginia-based group that has its radar trained on the media’s liberal leanings.
He wants TV to return to the days when there was “no politics, no agenda, no special messages - just good wholesome stuff. That’s the kind of thing we want to promote.”
What he and his group want to see are more shows like “Christy,” “Touched by an Angel” and “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman,” respectful of religion, sexual responsibility and family.
“Gratuitous and teen-age hetero and homosexual sex are portrayed with abandon on television now,” Bozell said. “The trend somewhat reversed itself a couple of years ago, but it’s back with a fury.”
Despite that, he sees cause for hope. Politically, television is more willing to feature diverse viewpoints.
“Murphy Brown,” once Quayle’s target and tormentor, introduced a conservative character last year who provided a give-and-take balance, Bozell said.
Even more encouraging to him: Network executives who once avoided groups like his are now listening to their concerns, as they’ve traditionally heard liberal advocates, Bozell said.
His center has established a Parents’ Television Council in Los Angeles to further its lobbying efforts.
“You have to do it through the politics of shame. Then and only then will the industry get the message.”