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How Responsible Is Our Television Content?
Limitless TV Show
Can Hollywood be more content responsible? I think it can!
It is totally understandable for Hollywood to look at the bottom line. Let's forget about the movies for a bit and focus on television. We still seem to have a little control over what our children view or not in a theater. The television airwaves are a little more slippery. With digital media and smart phones, many television shows find their ways into the hands of impressionable minds! It's worth stating that the TV industry is a business after all, shows do cost a lot of money to produce and advertising pays for them. And, as so many television channels keep sprouting, the need for attention grabbing scenes, premises and plots is essential. The edgier the better! Let's look at a few of the newer shows on the air.
I'm not a reviewer and I don't play one on TV! I'm a consumer who wants to share a couple of thoughts. I happen to have worked with many in the entertainment industry and been included in many production brain storming meetings. Hollywood has gone through many transformative years with tons of guiding rules and regulations. It's still a great town where wonderful creative minds are at work. Is there room for improvement? Yes! Here's a look at a few shows:
The Limitless TV series, on CBS, has these show teasers, 'This is Your Brain On Drugs' 'How fast Can You Read?' This television series was inspired by an action thriller film starring Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro where a 'smart drug, NZT' allows a struggling writer to become a perfect version of himself. The film is an adaptation of the novel The Dark Fields by Alan Glynn. Cooper is one of the producers and does appear occasionally on the show. ’ Hey, I know it's a fictitious premise; a pill that makes you a super human! Still, isn't it a little dangerous territory? Hello? Are you there? Are you thinking this through?
On the other hand and in recent years, television networks have been turning many violent movies into television series, from A&E airing the Psycho prequel series Bates Motel to NBC and the Red Dragon-inspired show Hannibal. The premise of the latter show centers around a criminal profiler who teams up with psychiatrist Hannibal Lecter to solve murders. This is also based on Thomas Harris' novels. How can a show like that not scar a young mind? Some scenes made me cringe and I had to look away!
I never understood how a violent show like Hannibal made it on prime-time television. Shouldn't it have been on cable? I did watch a couple of shows and wondered how a family can discuss the different ways the main character was planning to dissect and dine on someone! I was glad that NBC finally cancelled the show. I must admit that the acting was something else, though! Stellar! From Mads Mikkelsen to Laurence Fishburne!
The CW Network is having an edgy time with the forever fascinating topic of vampires, with 'The Vampire Diaries.' It's in its Seventh season and has its faithful audience. I'm sure we'll encounter a newer vampire version, even at the end of time! This series is with Julie Plex who is tuning vampires from villains into antiheroes! The scenes are horrific at times here too! But so are some comic books, right? That's why I do distinguish between such premises and reality type premises! We all know that vampires are fictitious and I'm assuming younger viewers are able to discern that right from the start. Not my cup of tea, but I'm sure it's a favorite of many. When Plex is asked, 'Why vampires?' She answers, 'I looked to soap operas to create cold-blooded killers whose emotional truth makes them antiheroes.' Interesting answer! That series is rated TV-14 even though violent!
Television and movies glorify actors and it's logical for viewers to be influenced by what they hear and see! How can they not be? And, when they stray or fall off the wagon due some kind of addiction, it's major news. And, why wouldn't such behavior be of mass-influence? Why wouldn't reality imitate art? We seem to all be affected by one of our own addictions or someone else’s. Having worked in Los Angeles for many years and with many executives and celebrities in the Hollywood community, I have been surrounded by different aspects of it. Addictions stem from a multitude of feelings, from insecurity to shame to inadequacy. One thing is clear, it is easy to become addicted but not that easy to break free. And one thing seemed to always give an edge, yield to the warning signs and get help before the roots of the addiction grow deep.
I do hold reality shows on a different level! Viewers are not always aware that some of what's called 'reality' is really far from it and mostly scripted! I think this is where content scrutiny needs to be more vigilant!
Keeping Up With the Kardashians, is a great example of how a reality show blurs the reality bit. It's a ratings phenomena. Despite being criticized and ridiculed, the Kardashians are still around and keep breaking records with whatever products they launch. Who would think that Kim Kardashian's selfies would make a book? Evidently, she appeals to a certain audience that is addicted to her every word. Celebrity obsession is a form of addiction. Hollywood is a big part of it. That's where, I wished for a little more role modeling from the actors themselves!
Sometimes without meaning to, celebrities feed our addictions. I remember an episode of The View where former co-host, Jenny McCarthy, shared that she enjoyed smoking e-cigarettes. Automatically, by saying that on live TV she's insinuating that smoking is cool again! She's made people think e-cigarettes are a safe way to quit smoking. Well, I know people who have been smoking them for years. Obviously it’s another form of addiction. Television talk show hosts are a little like the news media and should be held to higher standards! They do influence their fans and viewers at large! It would be nice for them to wait before blessing any addictive behaviors. E-cigarette smoking is still smoking. We still don't know its long term side effects.
As a former journalist, I totally believe in freedom of speech, but we could use a little common sense. A little more content supervision from Hollywood would be nice. We don't need to censor anything but air it on the appropriate channels, with the proper ratings and at the appropriate times. That would be appreciated. I love social media as it allows all our voices to be heard. Hollywood’s lifeline is in ratings and social awareness! Your opinion counts and so does your voice! If you believe that a television show is harmful or not helping to grow an open mind, then speak up and try to do something about it. When many voices come together change does happen! Social media is a great tool! We have witnessed it influence big corporations to change campaigns and take products off shelves. So, if you feel a show is feeding a certain questionable behavior or addiction, speak up! Tweet or post about it. You might not be the only one feeling that way and you might be the spark of a change.
One conclusion is clear; young people are bombarded with images of wishful identities that signal ‘being cool’. Television shows and celebrities are catalysts! Having worked with many educators and mental health workers, some of their recommendations come to mind:
· 1. Limit unsupervised media and internet use by children and pre-teens (eg, MTV, HBO, Showtime, Facebook, Twitter, Comedy Central)
· 2. Converse with younger viewers and co-view new movie releases and discuss content being viewed.
· 3. Schedule more engagement time especially with after school programs and activities. Check to see if schools have media education incorporated into their curricula.
· 4. Early addiction detection is prevention! And, more hands on involvement will help in the detection of the unusual and hopefully will prevent addictions from growing roots.
. 5. Finally, whatever the addiction, don't despair! Recognizing one is half the battle! Help is available!