A disconnect between violence and television

Network executives discuss programming in wake of shootings

By David Bauder

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 15 2013 7:53 p.m. MST

"Part of entertainment, part of what we do on television, is to provide escapism," Reilly said. "Escapism comes in many forms. It could be laughter. It could be fantasy. It is also your worst nightmare come to life. And it makes our palms sweat and it moves us emotionally and puts us on the edge of the seat. We are engrossed in it and we forget ourselves for an hour."

When a network is putting a thriller on the air, it has to be able to compete on an intensity level, he said.

Being publicly questioned about the level of violence on the air clearly annoyed Reilly, however. Asked if Fox had made any changes to the promotion or content of "The Following" after the Newtown school shooting last month, he snapped, "No," and said he wouldn't address any more questions on the topic.

He was wrong, by the way: Fox later said it had replaced a billboard showing a woman with an ice pick with an image of series star Kevin Bacon, and combed its on-air promos to make sure there was no gunplay.

Reilly wasn't alone in his impatience. CBS Entertainment President Nina Tassler also called a halt to questions on the topic Saturday after being asked several. Tassler was unhappy with NBC's Greenblatt, who said that CBS's "Criminal Minds" was worse than "Dexter" ever was in terms of content. She said it was a mistake to allow the discussion to "devolve into my show versus your show."

CBS is on pace to be the nation's most-watched television network for the 10th time in 11 years, and has done so with a huge fictional body count.

The network's prime-time schedule is dominated by procedurals that usually involve solving violent crimes. Tassler said CBS would begin promoting on the Super Bowl a summer series based on a Stephen King book about a town trapped under an invisible dome, the promo clip shown to reporters included drawings of body parts dropping from the sky, a pacemaker bursting out of a man's chest and a bloody hammer being cleaned in a sink.

NBC illustrated a similar disconnect. As its executives said NBC wasn't a "shoot 'em up" network, a highlight reel of "Revolution" was shown that included a swordfight, a standoff between two men with guns, a gunfight and a building blown up with a body flying through the air.

Tassler said CBS will show "awareness and sensitivity" as it moves the process of making pilots and selecting series that will run on the network in coming years.

"Nothing that is on the air is inappropriate," she said. "And our attention is always to continue to be a broadcaster that creates content for a vast, diverse audience."

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