LOS ANGELES – A parental advocacy group up is in arms over a recent Los Angeles Times article that argued that American television has reverted back to more family-friendly programming, citing hit shows such as “Cougar Town” and “Two and Half Men” as programs that could entice entire families to gather around the couch together once again.
While the article acknowledged that the shows deal with mature subject matters and that the term “family friendly” is far more limber than it was years ago, the Parents Television Council (PTC) begs to differ, saying it believes the LA Times article reflects that Hollywood has lost sense of what is and isn’t appropriate viewing for young audiences.
“There seems to be a big difference in what Hollywood will put out there as family friendly entertainment, or tell us is family friendly entertainment, and how it is actually perceived by the rest of the country,” said Melissa Henson, the PTC's Director of Communications and Public Education. "Very few of our members would feel comfortable allowing their children to watch most of the programs that were cited in that article as being evidence that the networks are turning back the clocks and introducing more family friendly programs.”
According to the PTC, “Cougar Town,” is built on the premise of older (often married) women getting hot and heavy with very young guys, while “Two and a Half Men” has been reduced to a catalog of the main character’s glamorized promiscuity.
The PTC also criticized another program mentioned in the article, "Glee," calling it a show that is full of graphic sexual themes involving high school students, recreational drug use and teens who “lie and manipulate.”
So can these shows really be deemed “family friendly”?
“I can see how “Cougar Town” and “Two and a Half Men” could be considered family-friendly by some people; they deal with divorce and that’s something all kids deal with," said Craig Tomashoff, Executive Editor-in-Chief of TV Guide Magazine. "There are a lot of family-related issues raised. 'Glee,' to me, completely fits into the category, it is about teens and the things they go through.
“But it all depends how you define family, and each family can define that on their own. Family television has changed, just as the notion of ‘the family’ has changed.”
Reps for CBS’s "Two-And-A-Half Men," Fox’s “Glee” and ABC’s “Cougar Town” declined to comment.
Even networks geared toward young people, such as “ABC Family,” boast a number of popular programs that may not necessarily be appropriate for the entire family. One example of this would be the hit show, “The Secret Life of an American Teenager,” which deals with teen pregnancy and juggling of motherhood and high school. Many parents might not feel comfortable allowing their young teens to watch programs that deal with such adult topics.
But the network said the show tackles real issues facing teens today.
“ABC Family targets 16-28 millennials with award-winning programming that deals with real-life issues relevant to our audience,” a rep from the network told Tarts. “‘The Secret Life of the American Teenager’ has been lauded for opening up a dialogue between parents and teens, and for sensitively tackling issues that speak to the network’s Millennial audience.”
So should we accept that society just isn’t what it was 10 years ago, and that “family friendly” in 2010 involves dealing with a much broader range of issues?
“The notion of “family-friendly” is locked in amber, it is pre-historic,” Liz Perle, editor-in-chief of Common Sense Media, told Pop Tarts. “Family-friendly made sense when you had three channels and no choice over what you watched between the hours of 7 p.m. and 10 p.m.
"The whole family-friendly paradigm needs to be shifted. We’re in a world of choice with so much information that allows you to make age-appropriate choices for your kids. Today, ‘family friendly’ is all about the tools you have to choose what you want to watch and control the programs you want to watch.”
Perle believes it is ultimately the responsibility of parents or guardians, not the networks, to determine what children should and should not be watching.
“You’ve got 900 channels to choose from, plus on-demand, so if you can’t find something family friendly you aren’t looking very hard,” she said. “You have so many options, you can program your own television experience and find anything from nature shows to comedy shows that are right for your family in their various developmental stages.”