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TV promos deserve a penalty flag

September 15, 2002 1:00 am

"AND IT'LL BE fourth down and one when we come back after this brief timeout."

(Clip showing scantily clad young women bouncing.) "See babes on trampolines, babes boxing other babes, and wet, sweaty babes jumping around on the beach in the new Fox special, 'Everything Guys Would Like to See Babes Do That We're Allowed to Show,' Friday night at 8 on Fox.

"But then things turn deadly [clip of half-naked woman being chased by hatchet-wielding madman] when a crazed killer rapist sneaks out of the asylum and stalks unsuspecting supermodels in the next episode of the award-free drama series, 'Crimes That Even Make Cops Puke,' right after 'Everything Guys Would Like to See Babes Do.' That's Friday night--lots of beauties and one big, bad beast--on Fox."

"We're back live at Cleavage, I mean Cleveland Browns Stadium. Wow, Bob, looks like another night of excellent entertainment on Fox. Fox. Fox. Fox. Fox. Fox. Fox."

Wouldn't it be nice to be able to sit down with the kids and just watch a football game? Having to hold the remote control, finger poised on the channel button for quick switching at every commercial break, takes away from the fun of the game itself.

With the new NFL season under way, Fox and the other networks are taking full advantage of their predominantly male football audiences to promote other programming of interest to young men. In other words, anything involving sex and violence.

Far be it from me to advocate censorship of television programming. The fare offered TV viewers may set new standards of bad taste. It may pander to the most base human indulgences. But it may also be just what Americans want to see. Heck, maybe it's even a source of stress relief--even catharsis--for overwrought adults. OK, maybe that's a discussion for another time.

But do we need to see this stuff summed up every 10 minutes in a 30-second television spot when the actual viewing demographics of NFL football are much broader than just males in their sexual prime?

Some families may view the violence of football itself as unhealthy, and it's their prerogative not to watch football, just as it is the prerogative of viewers in general to avoid any programming they choose not to watch.

There are lots of families out there, though, that appreciate the action and competitiveness of a football game. And rooting for one's favorite team is as American as the 4-3 defense. It shows kids that real players get in trouble if they don't play by the rules. It shows that athletes wear pads, that it's common sense to protect oneself, whether you're bicycling, rollerblading, or playing football.

But there is no need to subject impressionable young minds at every opportunity to the most violent and erotic moments of upcoming prime-time programs. In the interest of good public relations, the networks should agree to limit promotional spots to those shows that merit general audience ratings. Steamy and violent prime-time programs should be promoted during the prime-time hours in which they are shown, and later.

What's even worse is that the promos are repeated so frequently, so even if children fail to grasp the concepts involved and understand that this is grown-up stuff, they still mimic the activity and absorb the vocabulary.

More parents are keeping tabs on what their children watch on television. They're aware of studies that suggest that as a result of watching violent TV programming:

Children may become less sensitive to the pain and suffering of others.

Children may be more fearful of the world around them.

Children may be more likely to behave in aggressive or harmful ways toward others.

So it makes sense that parents would want their kids to avoid promos that might whet their appetites for such programs and such behavior.

Flipping over from Fox to the NFL on CBS isn't much of an improvement. Its football game promos seem a bit less nasty compared with those on Fox, but that may be a reflection of its less prurient programming.

Too bad NBC isn't carrying NFL games this season. We could be treated to promos for its expanding lineup of "reality" programming, with clips of people eating animal brains or swimming in vats of maggots. Can this really be the next generation of "must-see TV?"

And we wonder why people around the world think Americans are strange.

RICHARD AMRHINE is an editor and writer with The Free Lance-Star.





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