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It's the Deranged Serial Killer, Charlie Brown

I checked out a few minutes of the annual Charlie Brown Thanksgiving show the other night in a stroll down nostalgia lane. It took me that long to realize I had never seen it before. It must have come later in cycle of comfortably formulaic holiday specials that multiplied like Woodstock’s relatives.

Then I went upstairs to find my children watching Bones, an OK drama on Fox, which was on at the same time. The continuing story arc, inscribed with a bloody blade, is about a Hanibal Lecter-like killer. In this episode, at least in the few minutes I watched, the killer’s mentor, now in a nursing home, had apparently pulled all his teeth out and put them in a bomb so he could take a bite, in absentia, out of someone. In another scene, the killer tries to drown a little girl in a swimming pool. I want my thanksgiving killing to be confined to a turkey or goose.

I’m not trying to pick on Bones, which is in the mid-range of forensic violence/gore. Even House, one of my favorites, can be tough to stomache at times, and the ER "pencil in the eye" subplot last week was too much for my wife.

I’ll even admit that on that particular night, the extent for my taste for revenge would have been Charlie Brown tying up Lucy and finally kicking that football, but the juxtaposition of those two shows suggested a couple of things. First, I have to pay more attention to what my kids are watching. Second, we–all of us–should be paying attention to what our kids want to watch and think about why they do.

The most popular shows on TV are reality, which combines voyeurism, escapism, and vicarious experience, and shows with increasing, it seems to me, levels of blood and gore. The reality trend could be explained, in part, by a generation growing accustomed to living through a screen, whether a Facebook page or a video game or a TV set or an iPod. But the appetite for forensic violence still remains something of a mystery to me.

Adults are producing these shows, and lots of kids are watching them. Maybe when the writers and producers come back to the table after it has been scrubbed of cranberry sauce stains, they could take a little time to talk about where TV content is headed. No,make that "beheaded.".

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.