MTV Networks' Nickelodeon is so alarmed about the country's childhood-obesity epidemic it's committing upward of $30 million over the next year to making sure our little ones live long enough to become the next generation of viewers of MTV's teen reality series espousing the joys of recreational sex and binge drinking.
Yesterday morning at a news conference in New York, Herb Scannell, president of Nickelodeon Networks and vice chairman of MTV Networks, announced an expansion of "Let's Just Play," Nickelodeon's "pro-social campaign" to combat the spread of childhood obesity.
The network has entered into an Alliance for a Healthier Generation with the American Heart Association and the William J. Clinton Foundation.
Nickelodeon is dedicated to serving kids, and research results suggesting this generation will be the first with a lower life expectancy than their parents are "unacceptable and frightening," Scannell told those in attendance and reporters listening in on the telephone. At Nickelodeon they "want to do more than attack" the problem and to "empower" kids to live strong and healthy lives, and Scannell wants the campaign to lead kids to think that "being healthy is cool."
"You should have the longest life expectancy of any generation of Americans ever -- the rest of us want that for you," Clinton told a group of Nickelodeon's target audience in attendance at the event, held at the Young Women's Leadership School of East Harlem.
"But we know in order to get there you have to lead the way, and Nickelodeon is going to make sure you know the way how and that it's fun."
ABC has picked up "Invasion" and "Commander in Chief" for the rest of the TV season.
"Commander in Chief," starring Geena Davis as the president of the United States, is the most watched new series of this television season, averaging 16.4 million viewers. Steven Bochco recently took over as showrunner.
"Invasion," which has averaged 12.6 million viewers Wednesdays at 10 p.m., is delivering ABC's strongest performance in the hour with scripted series programming in well over five years.
One of a slew of new paranormal series packing prime time this fall -- this one about spooky things that turn up after a hurricane -- "Invasion" isn't doing such a hot job of holding on to its "Lost" lead-in audience -- it retains only about 56 percent. But, when you're talking about 22 million viewers, that's setting the bar very high, and "Invasion" holds enough "Lost" fans -- in particular its younger ones -- to beat CBS's "CSI: NY" and NBC's "Law & Order" in younger demographics in the time slot.
Fox hit the mother lode: Conservative watchdogger Brent Bozell has issued his annual list of the 10 worst shows on broadcast television, and three of the network's Sunday series top the chart.
For a network targeting young viewers, this is like sweeping the Emmys and the Golden Globes.
Each TV season, Bozell and his Parents Television Council crown their 10 best and 10 worst broadcast TV shows.
"We provide this analysis as a guide for parents because it's very difficult to monitor all the shows that are appropriate for family viewing and those that are not," Bozell said in this year's announcement.
"We were alarmed to find that the three worst shows on prime-time broadcast television are being marketed as family-friendly, when, in fact, these shows are none other than wolves in sheep's clothing."
The series are Fox's "The War at Home," "Family Guy" and "American Dad."
If by "marketed as family-friendly" he means they always begin with a so-called card on screen with the words "Viewer Discretion Is Advised" or "This Episode Contains Some Animated Nudity and Sexual Dialogue, Viewer Discretion Is Advised" read by some voice-over guy -- well, then, we can't argue the point.
And if, by "wolves in sheep's clothing" he means always runs with a TV14 content rating indicating the shows are not appropriate for viewers under 14 and may contain adult dialogue and sex -- he's got 'em, there.
A PTC rep explained to The TV Column that the point about marketing the shows as family-friendly refers to the facts that the shows are advertised during Sunday afternoon football, when children are likely to be watching; two of the shows are animated; and these three shows are among the highest-rated broadcast prime-time programs with children.
Children, of course, do not distinguish between broadcast shows and cable shows, only old people do. And during the most recent week in which those three Fox Sunday shows aired (the week ending Oct. 2), 60 or so prime-time telecasts drew larger kid crowds than "The War at Home" and "Family Guy," which each averaged around 1 million 2-to-11-year-old viewers; and about 80 telecasts clocked more kids than "American Dad," which averaged about 840,000. Those other shows include Nickelodeon's Wednesday 8 p.m. telecast of "SpongeBob SquarePants" and Disney's Sunday 8 p.m. telecast of "That's So Raven" -- both of which logged more than 2 million children.
Ironically, this season's most popular broadcast television series among children is also Bozell's No. 1 approved show for family viewing: ABC's "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition." PTC called it "an excellent example of a constructive and uplifting reality TV show."
In fact, Bozell's top three shows are all reality series, including NBC's new "Three Wishes" and Fox's "American Idol."
No fooling, "American Idol," despite last year's reports about the alleged extra "help" judge Paula Abdul gave to one of the contestants while he was still in the competition.
Bozell's No. 1 pick for family-friendly scripted series?
CBS's new Friday drama "Ghost Whisperer," though Bozell complains it "is not as explicitly pro-faith as 'Joan of Arcadia,' which occupied the same time slot last season." He acknowledges that some viewers might be "off-put" by a show about the supernatural -- Jennifer Love Hewitt plays a psychic who talks to dead people -- but so far, he adds encouragingly, episodes "have contained only minimal foul language, mild violence and virtually no sexual content."