And because Bozell was looking to lure the press to his latest screed, on the immorality of broadcast TV programming in the former "family hour" during those same two weeks in May, he packed the report with the most bloody, profane, sex-saturated examples he could find.
Trouble is, a substantial number of those examples did not air during the two-week period under discussion--didn't even air in the May sweeps race at all, according to the networks.
Which, I gotta say, leaves you wondering why, if those two weeks were so godawful, did Bozell have to look outside that period for his examples? It does not inspire confidence.
Bozell is a well-known conservative activist who runs the Media Research Center. But there's hardly anybody--even those reprobates who run the broadcast networks-- who would argue with his point that the family hour ain't what it used to be. When it was actually around, in the '70s, the 8 p.m. time slot was reserved for shows like "Happy Days," which dealt with such heady issues as blind dates with losers, acne and aliens from outer space in search of a spinoff sitcom.
The broadcast networks had adopted the family hour after Washington lawmakers complained that there were too many adult programs in the early evening, when children were watching TV.
But by the early '90s broadcasters went after fickle younger viewers--who were migrating to other entertainment sources including cable and the Internet--with 8 o'clock shows like "Melrose Place" and "Friends."
At issue here, however, is whether the so-called family hour--8 to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 7 to 9 Sunday--is materially worse than it was in November of 1997, which PTC says was its point of comparison.
According to "New Lows" it's much worse--75 percent worse. And the study's got the bar charts to prove it.
Fox was the "sleaze leader" during those two weeks in May, with 11.00 objectionable incidents per hour, followed by NBC with 9.63, the study says. And to drive home the point, it cites a lot of examples, including one from Fox's "Brimstone," a drama series launched in the fall and canceled before star Peter Horton ever got to make a costume change; the "Viagra" episode of NBC's "Mad About You"--a sitcom that was watched by so few last season you might have mistaken it for election coverage; and a line from "The Nanny," which took such a ratings plunge last season that CBS ripped it off the schedule and burned off the remaining episodes in the summer. Another example cites an exchange from CBS's short-lived "Fawlty Towers" knockoff, "Payne." None of these losers aired during the two weeks of Bozell's study. In fact, none of them aired during the May sweeps at all, according to the networks' records.
Though the "overview" at the front of the study says that it covers the period from May 13 to May 26, the very last sentence on the very last page adds that, while all examples of sex, foul language and violence in this report came from shows that aired during the family hour last season, they are not necessarily from within the study period.
Why do that?
Because, Bozell explained, the study period focused on the quantitative, while the examples focused on the qualitative, so they didn't need to be from the study period.
But if the programming during those two weeks was so lurid, wouldn't it have been more to the point and more credible to have taken examples only from within it?
Bozell responded by saying that his "dander does go up" if anyone questions his studies, because his research is all on computer and archived and he doesn't have to make this stuff up.
Oh, it's on computer.
So, getting back to the quantitative, CBS was apparently the most violent network from 8 to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 7 to 9 Sundays during the final two weeks of the May sweeps. That's what Bozell's study says.
Which is a real head-scratcher for the folks over at the eye network. According to a CBS rep who went back and looked at the lineup, CBS's 8-9 p.m. fare during the last two weeks in May included "Cosby," "Promised Land," "Kids Say the Darndest Things," "Candid Camera," "Early Edition," "Touched by an Angel," "King of Queens," a "Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman" special, "60 Minutes" and "60 Minutes II."
It did also include some broadcasts of "JAG," which is an action show, and among the examples of violence cited in the PTC study. But, says the CBS rep, "There aren't too many programs that stress virtues such as truth, justice and propriety so much as 'JAG.' We're dumbfounded to be labeled a violent network when you look at the programming we aired at 8 o'clock."
CAPTION: The report cites "Brimstone" with Peter Horton--canceled long before May's sweeps.