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October 23, 2014

Parents Television Council Objects to 'Gossip Girl' Threesome, But Will Anyone Listen?

by Gary Susman, posted Nov 4th 2009 3:30PM
If the Parents Television Council didn't exist, the networks might have to invent it.

The latest outburst of manufactured outrage by the TV watchdog group concerns the Nov. 9 episode of the CW's 'Gossip Girl' and the much-touted threesome (among characters yet to be named) that will supposedly be the episode's steamy highlight. The PTC has sent a letter to CW affiliates threatening them with FCC indecency fines should they air the offending episode, which no one at the PTC has actually seen.

Not that any CW affiliate is likely to pull the episode, not at the height of November's ratings sweeps period. Still, this predictable pantomime seems like a win-win for everyoneIf the Parents Television Council didn't exist, the networks might have to invent it.

The latest outburst of manufactured outrage by the TV watchdog group concerns the Nov. 9 episode of the CW's 'Gossip Girl' and the much-touted threesome (among characters yet to be named) that will supposedly be the episode's steamy highlight. The Parents Television Council has sent a letter to CW affiliates threatening them with FCC indecency fines should they air the offending episode, which no one at the PTC has actually seen.

Not that any CW affiliate is likely to pull the episode, not at the height of November's ratings sweeps period. Still, this predictable pantomime seems like a win-win for everyone. Publicity from the letters may help swell the membership rolls for the PTC and convince the letter-writers that they are doing something that will have an actual effect on objectionable TV content, while the same publicity will also drum up audience interest in 'Gossip Girl' and persuade impressionable viewers that the show is still as edgy and sexy as it purports to be.

It's good for everybody, except maybe the viewers; it's really beside the point whether folks at home are actually harmed by watching nudity-free depictions of boundary-pushing sexual behavior among consenting adults, or whether they're disappointed by an hour of TV that inevitably fails to live up to the hype.

It's not as if that many teens actually watch 'Gossip Girl.' As The Wrap points out, the median viewer age at the CW is 33, and 84 percent of 'GG' viewers are over 18. Plus, the show airs at 9PM., after primetime's traditional 8-to-9 "family hour." Because of the audience's age, some CW affiliates show beer and liquor ads during 'GG.' Think any of those stations will be inclined to pull the show out of concern for young viewers?

Family GuyAnd really, has the Parents Television Council ever had a successful boycott? Has it ever persuaded the FCC to levy an obscenity fine or revoke a broadcaster's license? Has it ever gotten TV writers to tone down a program's content? Some of the group's favorite targets -- from 'Today' to 'Family Guy' -- remain among TV's most popular shows among both viewers and advertisers.

The PTC has been railing for years about violence, particularly violence against women, in primetime TV; they even put out a new study last week claiming that the problem has gotten worse in recent years. The statistics cited in the report are problematic, but even if they weren't, wouldn't that mean that years' worth of PTC agitation has been ineffective?

Could it be that the ability of the PTC has overstated its ability to drive the public to grassroots action? Is the group any different from the Catholic League, which purports to voice the outrage of lay Catholics nationwide? (Last week, the League generated headlines, but no actual curbs or apologies, over its dismay at the weeping-Jesus episode of HBO's 'Curb Your Enthusiasm.'), In terms of its public presence and real-world impact, the League seems to be little more than one man with a busy fax machine (24 angry press releases in the last 35 days).

The Parents Television Council, like the Catholic League, has every right to voice its displeasure, to petition broadcasters, to boycott sponsors, and to complain to the FCC. But don't imagine that these watchdogs accomplish much besides generating publicity for themselves and buzz for the networks they're supposedly attacking. It's all ritual theater that benefits both sides without actually doing any favors for you, the viewer.

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stylestalkr

I started a company that allow fans of Gossip Girl to gain exclusive access to the clothes and accessories featured in each episode of the show. Click here to check it out: http://www.stylestalkr.com

April 03 2011 at 9:21 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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