• Why Can’t the Networks Get Family TV Right?

    by  • January 20, 2014 • Family Friendly • 6 Comments

    EmeraldCityRecently NBC announced its production slate for the upcoming television season. In the works is an adaptation of L. Frank Baum’s fanciful children’s books about the fairyland of Oz.  Predictably, however, rather than remaining true to the source material and creating a series that could become a hugely successful family TV hit, NBC instead envisions a “dark retelling” featuring a headstrong 20-year-old Dorothy Gale who “finds herself at the center of an epic and bloody battle.”

    Those familiar with the Oz books know that Dorothy Gale is a little girl. Younger, even, than Judy Garland’s age would suggest in the celebrated 1939 musical based on The Wizard of Oz. She often mispronounces words, and is devoted to her pet dog Toto, her Aunt Em, and Uncle Henry. She is guileless, friendly, curious, and kindhearted; as are most of the inhabitants of Oz. The closest Oz ever gets to an “epic battle” is when the Nome King plots to tunnel under the deadly desert and invade Oz and enslave its inhabitants; but the wise and kind girl ruler of Oz, Princess Ozma, refuses to fight. Instead, she magically fills the tunnel with dust, so that when the Nomes and their allies emerge, they are so parched and thirsty that they run immediately toward the forbidden fountain in the center of the Emerald City, and drink the water of oblivion – causing them to forget why they were there. Hardly epic, and entirely bloodless.

    But where the Nome King failed, NBC will undoubtedly succeed in destroying and laying waste to the whole magical kingdom of Oz; turning these charming fairy tales into something dark and sordid.

    When I was a child, I devoured all of the Oz books. I couldn’t get enough of them, and was heart-broken when I finished the final chapter of the last book. Last year, when my son was old enough to sustain interest in chapter books, I started reading them to him, a chapter at a time, and he has been thoroughly captivated by the magical stories of Dorothy and her friends and their adventures throughout Oz and the surrounding lands.  As we read through the books, I could not help but think that these lovely stories would lend themselves so well to a television series, and how warmly such a series would be embraced by families.

    NBC appears to have learned something from the recent success of their live telecast of The Sound of Music, because the same article announcing the development of Emerald City also states that NBC is planning a live telecast of Peter Pan for 2014 — but they seem to be missing the forest for the trees.The lesson they should have learned from the success of The Sound of Music is not that they can have one night of blockbuster ratings by airing an annual family musical, but that they can have ratings success week-in and week-out by making their programming schedule more family friendly.

    An Oz series that was faithful to the original books is something I would gladly have watched, and probably would enjoyed watching with my son, now that he knows the stories. And I know many families who probably would have done the same. But by putting a dark edge on Oz, and making Dorothy a grown woman (no doubt so they can add a love interest or sexual content that was not in the original stories), I know this is not something we will be watching as a family. The same will likely be true for many families.

    NBC will be missing out on a potentially huge audience of families that are desperately looking for something they can watch together. They already have the material, all they had to do was to stay faithful to the source; but instead of listening to consumers they are listening to those too-clever-for-their-own-good programming executives who think that more sex and violence will reverse their ratings woes. What a waste.

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    About

    Ms. Henson is a noted expert on entertainment industry trends and the how the impact of entertainment affects children and the American popular culture at large. She also directs the organization’s Advertiser Accountability Campaign, which encourages companies to sponsor family-friendly entertainment. She previously supervised the research and program content analysis operations of the PT and produced a number of groundbreaking PTC studies that document the levels of graphic sex, violence and profanity on television. Some of those reports include: The Ratings Sham I & II, Dying to Entertain, Faith in a Box, The Sour Family Hour, The Blue Tube, and TV Bloodbath. She began her career with the PTC in 1997 as an entertainment analyst, documenting instances of inappropriate content on television. Ms. Henson has appeared on a variety of television shows including Fox News Channel’s The O’Reilly Factor, Your World with Neil Cavuto, The Big Story, CNN Headline News’ ShowBiz Tonight, CNBC’s On the Money, MSNBC’s Scarborough Country, and CBN’s Newswatch. She is a frequent guest on radio talk shows across the country and has been quoted extensively in news sources such asEntertainment Weekly, Time, Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, New York Times, USA Today, New York Daily News, Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, Variety, Associated Press, Reuters, and Bloomberg. Ms. Henson is a graduate of the University of Virginia where she received a BA in Government. She resides in Falls Church, Va., with her husband and their son.

    6 Responses to Why Can’t the Networks Get Family TV Right?

    1. Bradley Laing
      January 20, 2014 at 1:33 pm

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tin_Man_(TV_miniseries)

      —Does it sound like a copy of this miniseries, from the year 2007?

    2. mko
      January 24, 2014 at 4:47 am

      Please, please, do not mislead parents who will be encouraging kids to watch a favorite show. Keep it like it was originally – why did it become a long-time favorite? — Because it was a wholesome, kind, kid safe show.

    3. VaLaire Orchard
      January 24, 2014 at 8:29 pm

      NBC was, at one time, the premier TV network. I started in TV (on camera) in the 1950′s on an NBC affiliate station… They produced most of the best programs with many of the most talented stars of the day. It was NBC that introduced color TV with their program Bonanza. Some of those programs can still be seen today. Families could watch television on any station, at any time, and never see programs that weren’t good family fare….. If they would return to programming appropriate for families, they would get their audiences back……and they would make a ton of money….Guaranteed!!

    4. Jesse Berden
      January 25, 2014 at 10:36 am

      I agree with you Melissa. I enjoyed the Oz series when I was growing up. It’s like they want to grab the name off anything nostalgic and slap it on some sexualized gore flick. It would be so far from what the story of Oz actually is that the name wouldn’t be justified. Everything Oz is not. This is like a slap in the face..

    5. Cheryl Worsley
      January 29, 2014 at 8:09 am

      I am shocked at what is happening to the quality and good honest clean entertainment on out television and in the theaters. I read this email of information, including this Wizard of Oz projected T.V. program, and the DAD program. I want to make a protest to the sponsors and television stations but I don’t know how. In the past there was a spot I could push to go to a rejections place, a place where I can comment about my feelings.

      I even appreciated it when someone had already said the objections for me in writing and I just had to sign my name to it. Is there a way that I can still do that. I am in favor of letting those in charge of putting these negative shows that slip in messages to our children that MARRIAGE and FAMILY and RIGHTEOUSNESS and GOODNESS are not necessary…….and are being destroyed in our society. Please let me know who to contact and what to say so that my voice will be heard. I want to know that will make the best and biggest impact. Thank you for informing me.
      Cheryl Worsley

    6. sara
      November 15, 2016 at 7:52 pm

      I just thought of something:

      Could dedicated kids’ channels like Disney Channel, Cartoon Network, & Nickelodeon play a part in all of this?

      Maybe the reason why the big networks don’t want to produce any family shows is because they know that kids have their own shows so they don’t feel the need for family-friendly programming!

      What I am trying to say is the kids’ channels are to blame for the fall of family-friendly TV!

      After all they killed off Saturday morning cartoons!

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