Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Morality Police are at it again

A few days ago, I had read on the Toon Zone message board that the Parents Television Council (PTC) had pressured Microsoft into pulling advertising from an upcoming Fox special starring Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane. I just shook my head. Here we go again.

Since its founding in 1995, the PTC has made it its mission to bring traditional family values back to broadcast television. However, the methods they use amount to overzealous bullying when things don't go their way. The PTC boasted TV icon Steve Allen as an Honorary Chairman before his passing a few years back, and the current membership includes the likes of country singer-actor Billy Ray Cyrus (Hannah Montana) and----what a surprise---Pat Boone.

What PTC President Tim Winter and his group are complaining about now is a special that hasn't even aired yet, but they're going by the reputation that MacFarlane has already gained for his triad of animated sitcoms (Family Guy, American Dad, & the first-year series The Cleveland Show). While I have not seen Cleveland yet nor have bothered with American Dad to this point, I have sampled Family Guy on occasion. Yes, the humor may often be sophomoric and crass, but the problem with the show I see is that the plotlines are lost in a steady stream of bad gags and jokes that have no coherence in relation to whatever passes for a plot.

In short, the PTC is doing what it does best. Piggybacking onto someone else's forum to renew their 15 minutes of fame.

A little personal disclosure here. Some 30-odd years ago, I was attending a Christian church in my hometown whose pastor decided to take a very public stand on pornography, which, he believed, had extended to network television programs such as Three's Company and Charlie's Angels. He smashed three television sets to put his point across. The pastor has long since left the area, but his message was not too far from the mission statement the PTC would adopt nearly 20 years later. I would later realize that if you got past the distraction created by the concept of "Jiggle TV", and paid closer attention to the story itself, the shows weren't so bad.

And that is where the PTC is making its mistakes over and over again. They've railed against crime dramas like NYPD Blue (language) and Without a Trace (graphic violence, I assume), even though neither of those shows are aired at a time when children could be watching. That has been the moral crutch the PTC has used more often than not, taking into account that at least 2-3 generations of youths have taken up smoking and coarse language at such a young age, creating a cycle that is increasingly difficult to break. If the PTC recognized that the things they're complaining about are within the context of a story, then they have nothing to complain about.

It's never a good idea to complain about something you haven't seen, and have only gone by hearsay (word of mouth). Then, you're defeating your whole purpose, because you're enabling the show(s) you're targeting to draw more attention out of curiosity. Me? I'll be reviewing that Fox special this weekend, and we'll see if the PTC's mercenary, premature actions were justified.

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