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Shock Value On Tv: How Does It Effect The Audience?

1177 words - 5 pages

In the fifties an episode of "Father Knows Best" was not allowed by the censors to air because it had a scene where a toilet could be seen in the background. In the '99/2000 TV season an episode of Will and Grace" showed Grace taking pictures of a celebrity's toilet, one with the lid down, and one with it up. This is an example of the changing morals in today's television content. One reason morals are declining is shock value. Shock value is a lower form of humour often used in sitcoms to get a cheap laugh of surprise out of the audience. Statistics have shown that shows with high shock value, like "Will and Grace," get good ratings. Unfortunately, something can only be shocking once. Therefore sitcom writers must constantly come up with more and more outrageous situations and reactions to keep the audience laughing. Morals in TV programming have decreased significantly in the last decade due to desensitization of the audience. A desensitized audience requires a more shocking show, which in turn desensitizes them more. The result of this downward spiral is sitcoms enjoyed by our children that would absolutely sicken our grandparents. The most popular show in 1990 was "Cheers," in 1995 it was "Seinfeld," and in 2000 it was "Ally McBeal." A comparison of these three TV programs will show how portrayals of sex, violence, homosexuality and other situations originally considered inappropriate for the general viewing public have increased in number and severity in the last decade. This increase has resulted in a decrease in morals in society overall. "Cheers" was a sitcom about a bar's staff and regulars. It was so popular that reruns are still shown regularly on specialty stations. "Cheers" was never violent, and its sexual content was incredibly tame by today's standards. The main character, Sam Malone was quite a ladies' man, but toward the end of the shows run, the character became desperate to end his roaming lifestyle and settle down. For him, this meant having a baby out of wedlock with a colleague. At the time this was a very risque story line. "Cheers" most common deviation form the moral "norm" however, was the alcoholism exhibited by several of its characters. For example, Sam: "What'd you like Normie?" Norm: "A reason to live. Gimme another beer." And Coach: "A beer Norm?" Norm: "Hey I'm high on life Coach. Of course beer is my life." (The Unofficial Cheers Web Site, © 1995, 1996 by Eric R. Jorgenson and Kevin Treu. Http://s9000.furman.edu/~ejorgens/cheers/top.html) This is practically unavoidable in a show set in a bar. To counter it, the Sam Malone character is a recovered alcoholic, a man who lost a promising baseball career die to his drinking problems. The closest "Cheers" ever got to discussing homosexuality was a quick joke about a woman being so gorgeous, even a gay man say's he'd "switch." So you can see the popular comedy ten years ago was rarely racy, and tried to counter any immoral activity shown by also showing...

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