• NBC Boss: TV Must Be “Provocative” (Translation: Violent)

    by  • November 7, 2013 • Broadcast Decency, Misrated, Violence • 3 Comments

    NBC Chairman Robert Greenblatt says the solution to bringing his network back from fourth place in the ratings is to be more “provocative.” Unfortunately for families, so far that has translated to, “show more violence.”

    The NBC boss hasn’t let the grass grow under his feet in his push for more violent programming. The PTC recently showed that most of NBC’s dramas contain graphic violence – yet are rated as appropriate for 14 year olds. This is a strange approach to take if the goal is luring in more viewers overall, especially since Greenblatt himself  noted that NBC “used to be one of the most innovative, acclaimed networks in America.” That is true; under its president Grant Tinker, in the 1980s NBC brought Americans programs like The Cosby Show and Family Ties, and top-notch dramas like Hill Street Blues and St. Elsewhere, shows which appealed to the entire family, not a narrow group of 18-34 year olds.

    However, Greenblatt’s claim that “we’re trying to bring that [era] back” is utterly false. Rather than returning to the programming that gave NBC its greatest success, Greenblatt apparently believes that extreme graphic violence is the way to attract a larger number of viewers. Instead of competing with cable by being different and appealing to wider audiences, Greenblatt’s strategy is to imitate it (and thus, try to attract the same audiences away from cable shows to which they’re already loyal). 

    Greenblatt claims that “we have to be provocative and do things to surprise people.” Apparently, to the network chief, “provocative” automatically equals “grotesquely violent.” And NBC’s current obsession with  gore-soaked, disturbing programming like Hannibal, Grimm and Law &Order: SVU would not “surprise people” who knew that Greenblatt produced the serial killer drama Dexter for Showtime, and the death-obsessed Six Feet Under for HBO.

    In fact, Greenblatt appears to be indulging in the same classic mass communications fallacy NBC’s first president, “Pat” Weaver, did in the 1950′s: putting on programming HE enjoys, not shows which appeal to most of his audience. The situations differ in that  Weaver’s tastes ran to opera, not bloody serial killer shows; but under Weaver, NBC took second place to CBS for decades — a situation with which Greenblatt should be familiar.  

    “We’re in the process of trying to figure out what is the next stage of broadcast TV,” Greenblatt says. One answer might be to put on programs families actually want to watch. But that’s not the answer entertainment industry bosses like Greenblatt want to hear.



    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.

    3 Responses to NBC Boss: TV Must Be “Provocative” (Translation: Violent)

    1. brandon
      May 13, 2015 at 6:26 pm

      My grandfather who was a mortician loved Six Feet Under. He thought it captured mortuary life pretty well. As for the show being death obsessed, it is a show about a mortuary it would be kind of difficult to avoid the subject of death. I thanked Six Feet Under for bringing some attention to a little talked about profession that my grandfather spent his life doing. Morticians do a great service for the community and I think they earned a show about them.

    2. Victoria Bunce
      November 8, 2013 at 7:23 am

      We need to stop these shows that our violent, provocative and not family friendly. I turn shows off or change channels. T.V. shows today are so bad I turn on netflix and watch the old shows. I know there safe, no surprises.

    3. November 8, 2013 at 5:41 am

      I wrote to the Pres. Of CBS &, of course, got NO reply about violence and outright DIRTY shows like Two Broke Girls. As I said, we never talked the way these girls talk in the fraternity house in college! In our fraternity, we would have been “thrown out” for language they constantly portray.

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