A Family Affair

Even here at Broadcasting & Cable, where we receive preview DVDs, many of us waited until Sunday night to watch the latest episode of The Sopranos so we could analyze every violent and gory scene Monday morning at work.

But one of our editorial writers has a daughter who's had nightmares from scenes she's seen on network TV that were too much for her juvenile sensibilities. We're not advocating mandated family viewing hour. But in a world where professional athletes, pop stars and even priests do horrible things, family friendly TV is a valuable counter-balanceto a crass world.

This week, a special report on family viewing shows that, in fact, many children do sit down with mom and dad (or some version of the nuclear family) to watch TV together. It was true with Who Wants to Be a Millionaire(those easy questions at the beginning were designed for kids), and it's still true for American Idol. But it's happening elsewhere, too. Maybe in a disquieting world, family viewing has new value. Last month, total viewership for Nick at Nite was up 35% from the year before. Hallmark was up 22%.

A couple of weeks ago, after we read the debut of David Bianculli's TV column in B&C in which he extolled the enduring good memories of ABC's 1988 “T.G.I.F.” Friday lineup of family-friendly shows, older folks around here were amazed to hear the younger staffers remember with incredible fondness how that was the night they all watched TV together. The way they described watching TV that night was just like a scene out of, well, one of the T.G.I.F. shows, like Perfect Strangers, Full House, Mr. Belvedere and more.

Most of broadcast television doesn't get that wholesome, beyond some new game shows—My Dad Is Better Than Your Dad and Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?—that are blatantly tapping the vein.

But as the broadcast networks plan their new schedules, we hope they are getting more able assists from the Association of National Advertisers' Family Friendly Programming Forum, which for the last six years has provided seed money to get family shows on TV. Their record is pretty good: Gilmore Girls, Ugly Betty, Friday Night Lights, Brothers & Sisters, Everybody Hates Chris and Chuck all got help from the forum, which also goes to prove that networks sometime do know a good thing when they see it, and so do American families. At a time when television gets an earful from legislators about a supposed “teen orgy” in Without a Trace, it's good to remember there's another side of primetime.