• “About Families” Not the Same as “Safe FOR Families”

    by  • September 25, 2013 • Misrated, Sex • 13 Comments

    Hollywood’s latest scam aimed at viewers is its claim that, because a program is ABOUT a family, the program is therefore appropriate for family viewing. But this is a lie – and this fall’s new “comedies” prove it.

    As reported by the Chicago Sun-Times, with the new fall TV season beginning, the heads of the major broadcast networks are trying to claim that they are returning to “family” programming. This is part of the broadcast networks grand narrative pretending their shows are wonderful and family-friendly, while perpetuating the myth that “edgier” fare is found only on cable. But in fact, shows on broadcast TV that are truly family-friendly are few or none.

    It is true that there is more “family programming” premiering this fall – if by “family programming,” one means “shows about families.” But the content ON the new fall shows about families ranges from the barely passable to the downright disgusting.

    Unsurprisingly given its history of shows like How I Met Your Mother and Two and a Half Men, CBS is the worst offender. While its new show The Crazy Ones is sorta-kinda about family (a father-daughter team working together at his business), it’s really just an excuse for Robin Williams’ comic shtick. The network also gives viewers We Are Men, about four divorced men who pursue women for shallow, meaningless sex. Umm…and that’s about “families” how, exactly?

    But CBS really hits bottom with two of its other new comedies. Chuck Lorre’s Mom trashes everything family is about, with its story of three generations of promiscuous, alcoholic, drug-addict women (grandmother, mother, and pregnant teenager) all sharing the same household. What could be more “family-friendly” than seeing a teenage girl say of her own mother, “What a whore!”

    And CBS’ The Millers doesn’t even deserve to be on television. The first episode of this utterly repugnant filth featured an elderly couple bickering in front of their adult children – about masturbation. The rest of the episode was about how stupid and incompetent the old man is, and how the old woman has flatulence. Yes, senile old people and fart jokes are apparently CBS’ idea of “family” programming.

    ABC, the broadcast network owned by the Walt Disney company, is no better. “We do extremely well in family shows,” claims ABC’s president Paul Lee, but you couldn’t prove it by looking at his network’s shows. Back in the Game features a single mom forced to live with her father, an abusive drunk who constantly belittles and puts her down in front of her son.  Trophy Wife gives viewers a young wife of a twice-divorced man – whose two ex-wives keep meddling in their marriage (along with the young wife and one ex talking about breasts and genitals, of course). But for REAL “family” programming from Disney, check out The Goldbergs, which in its first episode shows an 11-year-old boy talking about a waitress’ cleavage, saying, “I need those sweet, delicate boobs…I just want to bury my face in those puppies.” “Don’t we all?” agrees his grandfather, who later takes the boy to Hooters. You can always count on Disney to keep it classy.

    Fox’s only new “family” comedy this fall is Seth MacFarlane’s Dads. We won’t bother to say more about it here, since – along with TV critics – we’ve already commented on the sleazy, bigoted show. We’ll just say: it deserves everything the critics have said. And more.

    NBC’s new fall comedies are marginally less bad than those from the other networks, based on their first episodes; but knowing TV, that could change rapidly. Welcome to the Family has the not terribly family-friendly premise of an unmarried teen couple getting pregnant and deciding to stay together, while the grandfathers-to-be hate each other. Sean Saves the World features a recently-divorced gay man raising his daughter alone. While that premise is family-friendly enough, the show undercuts it by turning Sean into a flaming gay stereotype who minces around while sniggering, “Don’t look at my ass!” NBC’s The Michael J. Fox Show is about the only new show this fall that promises to be even somewhat family-friendly.

    In short, claiming a show is safe for families just because it’s ABOUT a family is ludicrous. After all, for over a decade, Fox has aired a program named Family Guy – and nobody would ever claim that show is “family-friendly.”



    Christopher Gildemeister is the PTC’s Head of Research Operations. He began as an Entertainment Analyst at the PTC in 2005. From 2007-2016, he was Senior Writer/Editor, responsible for communicating the PTC’s message to the public through newsletters, columns, and the PTC Watchdog blog. Dr. Gildemeister holds a Ph.D. from The Catholic University of America.

    13 Responses to “About Families” Not the Same as “Safe FOR Families”

    1. Anonymous
      April 24, 2015 at 7:50 pm

      Honestly the only thing it’s really good for anymore is watching movies, but even so you’d be better off watching Netflix or dvds.

    2. Karen
      October 16, 2013 at 5:20 pm

      I don’t even want my children to see the commercials for these shows. I have to be ready to switch the channel when they come on. That is bad in my book. I would love to be able to watch a sporting event with my sons without having to be so vigilant.

    3. Marion
      September 27, 2013 at 12:58 pm

      It was once called a ‘wasteland.” How sad, a wonderful medium for education, inspiration, etc. used for such garbage. Unfortunately, sponsors are equally to blame. Well, we have a hand in that too. Don’t buy their products, boycott them if necessary. The bottom line is what is important. Forget about morals. These people only know profits. The writers themselves are totally, over sexed uneducated adolescents..

    4. Will
      September 26, 2013 at 6:38 pm

      “The Michael J. Fox Show” doesn’t look all that great, either. I guess the idea of comedy shows being worth watching is simply lost for now.

    5. Heather
      September 26, 2013 at 2:38 pm

      On the subject of ABC Family. What about Switched at Birth? This last season one of the daughters (17 years old) starts sleeping with her 18+ year old boyfriend who is a mechanic in the Army. I have no issue with a military figure in the show. That’s great, it touches on a subject that is prominent in today’s society. I’m a veteran myself. What I took issue with was the parents belittling the son (18+ graduated from highschool with a full time job) wanting to marry his girlfriend. Meanwhile their 17 yr old is having casual sex and, their reaction is to shrug and say “Well she is 17, we can’t really stop her” no, they may not be able to “stop” her but they sure could have said something.

    6. Tracy
      September 26, 2013 at 7:42 am

      There are no words. Nothing like turning on the TV to see what the “new family program” sitcoms are going to be like and seeing a boy locking lips with another boy, I think they were maybe 8? I immediately turned it off, there is nothing to watch on TV anymore! I am referring to Back in the Game.


    7. Julie
      September 26, 2013 at 6:43 am

      I was mortified by the show “The Goldbergs”. The show started out with incessant yelling between the parents and the children. Then the father made numerous remarks about his son being “a moron” or “stupid”. But the worst of all was the youngest child – portrayed as a 6th grader – and his obsession with breasts, being coached by the grandfather. 1) I am so tired of children being involved in sexual dialogue and/or inappropriate situations. On an episode of “Camp”, a teenager at the camp was daydreaming about girls in their underwear having a pillow fight – because you know, that’s what all girls do (insert sarcasm), and when he snapped out of it, there were several little children staring at him and he replied “Oh – sorry – I was thinking about adult things.” Really? And on an episode of “New Girl”, there was a couple attempting to have sex in a children’s playhouse – and got stuck in it – while children gathered around staring at them. This is all supposed to be funny? 2) When I come home from work, if I decide to turn on the tv, I either want to be entertained or educated. I don’t seem to have that option anymore. The real world can be frustrating enough – I don’t need to turn on the tv and get angry. Where are the Cosbys when you need them?

      • William Warfield
        October 15, 2013 at 12:34 pm

        Adam Sandler’s production company co-produced “The Goldbergs” with Sony Pictures Television. What does *that* tell you?

        I *strongly* agree – Cosbys, *please* come back and stay!

    8. Dana
      September 25, 2013 at 4:00 pm

      Excellent post! Two things I should share:

      1. Have you seen the cable network ABC Family lately. They are into showing movies that are anything but “safe for families”: Pretty Woman, Coyote Ugly, Liar Liar, and Burlesque, to name a few. On its Facebook page, people (mostly parents) wonder why this network is still called “ABC Family.” One poster in particular keeps answering, “Because it’s owned by Pat Robertson and he won’t let anyone change the name. If you don’t want your kids to see it, turn off the TV!” Sounds like another one of those “Don’t like it, tough spit!” responses, doesn’t it?

      2. The closest thing to a family show that’s actually watchable FOR families is NBC’s Parenthood. I’ve been a fan from day one. It’s the only thing NBC does right these days, and is adored by many viewers with intelligence (not surprisingly, the network has threatened cancellation of this great show more than once!). Sure there’s an *occasional* sexual reference, but never enough to turn me off.

      • Christopher Gildemeister
        September 25, 2013 at 5:06 pm

        Thanks for your kind comment, Dana!

        ABC Family hasn’t been “family-friendly” for a long time now. “Kyle XY” and “Greek” were bad enough; but the real capper was “The Secret Life of the American Teenager,” which was pretty much all teenage sex, all the time. Thankfully, that show is ended now; but it’s no wonder ABC Family’s movies aren’t very suitable, either.

        But the commenter you mention was close to correct in why it is still called the “Family Channel.” What today is called “ABC Family” did originate as Pat Robertson’s “Family Channel.” When Robertson sold it, first to Fox (the channel was briefly called “Fox Family”) and then to Disney, he included language in the sales contract which required that 1) the property must always have the word “family” in its title, and 2) it must continue to air Robertson’s show “The 700 Club.” (ABC Family still shows it, though they push it into the wee-small hours of the morning, and precede it with a statement that “this program does not reflect the views of ABC Family.”) Robertson must’ve had some dynamite attorney draft that contract, given that, even after two changes of ownership and Disney’s army of lawyers, the network is still bound by it.

        When they first acquired the property, Disney wanted to name the channel “XYZ” (sort of the opposite of “ABC,” geddit?) But the contract made that impossible. So now they get around the title by adding the tagline, “A New Kind of Family.” Which it is, if you consider “family” to mean “ignorant parents with teens having non-stop sex.”

        • Jeni
          September 26, 2013 at 7:47 am

          Soooooo talking about it does not change things. I keep up with all of this as well as boycott advertisers and even give money to the PTC. But it only gets worse. How do we change this?? I have three grandbabies now and of course, do not live with them. I cringe when I think of what they see/hear on tv’s that never get turned off. What can we do??

        • Steven Hoyt
          September 27, 2013 at 7:35 am

          I worked for The Family Channel in the 90′s and am more distressed every day at what it has become under the ABC ownership. I am fortunate to be in programming with INSP “The Inspiration Network” and have opportunities to bring uplifting, wholesome, family shows to viewers once more. I did have a note of clarification. When The Family Channel was sold to Fox, the 700 club’s evening airing was pushed to 11pm ET, where it remains in perpetuity, as does the morning slot from 9:30-11am ET, according to the sale contract. Keep up the fine work Christopher and the PTC team.

          • Christopher Gildemeister
            September 27, 2013 at 8:21 am

            Thanks for the kind comments and additional information re: The Family Channel, Steven!

            The PTC is proud to help promote INSP’s programming — especially their new fall lineup of shows like “Robin Hood” and “Lark Rise to Candleford.” To anyone who is reading these comments, has a pay-TV subscription, and is hungry for family-friendly entertainment, I’d say: DEFINITELY check out INSP’s programming. I can say from experience that the folks at INSP care about quality TV. They’re good people…and they show good programs!

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