Linda Ellerbee executive produces, acts as moderator and sits cross-legged, classroom style, in this timely special about the effects of TV violenceon kids. Combining “kid on the street interviews,” opinions from specialists, TV footage and a forum, spec manages to entertain and inform without being condescending to its audience.
CBS exec Howard Stringer for the most part walks the fence, but the kids manage to put him on the spot regarding violence on CBS’ “Rescue 911.” Kudos to him for taking part.
The first of three acts offers opinions from doctors combined with footage from violent TV. Most of the doctors’ views support the thinking that violence on TV leads to violent behavior; exception is Dr. Jonathan Freedman, who offers violence figures from his native Canada that are much lower than the U.S., though TV content is virtually the same.
The second act features Ellerbee, Stringer and a half-dozen kids voicing their concerns and opinions. The younger kids’ views differ, but all of them realize that TV is acting. What bothers them most are reality-based shows and evening newscasts where the violence is real.
News director Paula Walker is interviewed, but the most shocking interviews come from a pair of freelance cameramen who patrol New York at night in search of news items. “Unless there’s a fatality, we’re not interested,” one of them says.
The third act attempts to offer solutions. As Ellerbee explains, “It’s not about selling programming to audiences; instead, it’s about selling audiences to advertisers, and violence on TV sells.” A vicious, violent, honest circle.
Advisory warnings before certain TV programs are already in effect, but the new problem is who decides what TV shows deserve these warnings. Stringer says the solution is for more parents to watch their children’s viewing habits.
A good job is done addressing the problems, but very little is accomplished in the solution dept. And the question asked in the title, “Are You What You Watch?,” is never answered.