My CBS-TCA ‘Why So Much Crime?’ Fantasy

For the umpteenth time in the last however-many years, CBS Entertainment
Prez Nina Tassler will appear this weekend at the TV Critics Assn. tour and be asked about media violence and the number of
dramas the network airs that begin with a murder or
100031_D0178b4_crop(1)chalk outline.

It’s not hard to anticipate the answer. Both Fox’s Kevin Reilly and ABC’s Paul Lee said some variation of the same thing — that their hearts go out to the shooting victims in Connecticut, that they are always very mindful of violence when making programming decisions, and that they welcomed a wider conversation on the issue.

Still, CBS is in a slightly unique position, if only because so many of its programs (roughly 12 of its 22 primetime hours) have crime as a backdrop.

So if you’re Tassler, how do you respond? From a PR perspective, just the way her counterparts did. Yet if caught in Wonder Woman’s truth-telling lasso, the answer would go something like this:

Question: Ms. Tassler, in light of recent events, have you changed your development plans at all for the coming season? And do you feel any extra responsibility because of the amount of crime you have on your schedule?

Tassler: We obviously feel we need to be responsible in the way we present things, and we’re confident that we are. We have a standards and practices dept. that vets all of these shows, and our audience is clearly comfortable with them.

Q: But are you comfortable with the sheer amount of crime shows that you air? And doesn’t it say something that your lineup is so heavily reliant on such programs?

NT: Well, we … OK, the truth? We’d love to do something other than crime procedurals. But that’s what our audience wants from us, so I suggest you take this up with your readers. Every time we try something outside of our and their comfort zone — did you watch “Swingtown,” which was pretty damn good, or “Viva Laughlin?” Well, nobody else did either — they can’t be bothered. Frankly, I think we deserve some credit for even trying. Heck, it’s tempting to kick off “Mike & Molly” with a murder each week.

And before you say “What about the kids?,” let me remind you the median age of our audience is around 55. So for the most part, no kids are watching any of these shows, unless they happen to be visiting their grandparents.

Americans love crime and justice, and the cathartic feeling good guys are hunting down bad guys. Just ask the NRA. So we keep giving it to them, which is exactly what you would do if the shoe was on the other foot, Ms. Smarty Pants.

Oh, and if you’re still publishing next year when I get this damn lasso off of me, I’ll be back to the customary, all-American practice of artfully dancing around the question.

 

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