As reported by Deadline: Hollywood, CBS has given full-season orders to all of its fall series that have premiered so far, including Stalker – this, in spite of the show’s horrific content.
At the beginning of the fall season, professional TV critics greeted Stalker with rave reviews like the following:
Hank Steuver, The Washington Post: “Unsparing with both its grisliness and its deeply negative regard for human nature.”
Diane Werts, Newsday: “All about the women-in-terror kick…Reprehensible.”
Mary McNamara, Los Angeles Times: “Unforgivable…violence, creepiness and depravity appear to be the point.”
Maureen Ryan, The Huffington Post: “A putrid, badly-written crapfest packed with violence against women…Exploitative, misogynist trash.”
Matt Roush, TV Guide: “TV really doesn’t get much uglier or more cynical than CBS’s Stalker.”
Before its season premiere on October 1st, the PTC issued a warning about the program, alerting viewers to the unbelievably graphic, anti-woman violence present in the episode. In the show’s first two minutes, a masked, hooded man chases his former girlfriend and splashes gasoline on her. The woman locks herself in her car, whereupon the stalker douses the car and sets it on fire, with the woman being murdered in a fiery explosion. PTC President Tim Winter pointed out that
“Our country is mired in a national dialogue about shocking levels of domestic violence, child abuse and sexual assault. Entertainment that is saturated with violence against women – or violence against any person for that matter – will only foment such horrific, real-life conduct. Airing such material on primetime broadcast television is grossly irresponsible… Tonight, CBS and 200 of its affiliated stations around the nation will use the public airwaves ostensibly for ‘torture porn.’ How does that serve the public interest, as mandated by every broadcast license issued to CBS stations by the FCC? It doesn’t.”
Nor has the program improved. In just the first four episodes, Stalker has shown a stalker holding a woman in the empty gym at night, duct tape on her mouth and wrists. The stalker tapes her to an exercise bike and pours gas all over her and himself, then slowly strikes a match. A policeman arrives and shoots the stalker in the chest, causing him to drop the match and light himself on fire (October 1, 2014); a woman bloodily shot down by a sniper during her own wedding procession (October 15, 2014); and a stalker who preys on his victims’ phobias, including fear of the dark, snakes, and drowning, then masturbates to videos of their reactions (October 22, 2014).
Predictably, CBS has rated each episode as appropriate for 14-year-old viewers. And now, the network has guaranteed the show will be on for the rest of the season. With all of the accumulated evidence showing that violent TV desensitizes viewers to real-life violence, it would be nice if CBS exercised some leadership and chose not to show programs like Stalker. But then, ever-more extreme content is the name of the game in today’s entertainment industry.