While positive depictions of religion in primetime are on the rise, the numbers are still a little too low for the Parent Television Council, which Tuesday issued an analysis of the role of religion in TV.
Religious scenes, according to the study, appear about once every four hours in primetime. While the PTC said re-ligious depictions were positive overall, television has “too often presented distorted and unfair views of both clergy and laity.”
Last year, PTC said, there were 436 mentions of religion in primetime on the six webs, up from 116 in 1993, when there were only four webs. Also on the plus side for PTC: It pegged the positive/negative ratio at just under 2 to 1. The study said it is the third year that positives have outnumbered negatives.
CBS ‘Touched’ by religion
Among the webs, CBS was in first place in religious depictions, boosted by such family hours as “Touched by an Angel” and “Promised Land.” NBC was in second, followed by Fox, ABC, WB and UPN.
The other webs, PTC said, should program more “religion-friendly” shows, but the group acknowledged it does not expect all-God/all-the-time TV.
PTC singled out Fox for more negative religious depictions than positive, especially “The Simpsons.” Also cited was the CBS miniseries “A Season in Purgatory,” which PTC described as a “tour de force of Catholic-bashing.”
The study pinpoints specific scenes from shows to determine a positive, negative or neutral religious portrayal. It does not look at a show’s run for a season. For example, ABC’s “NYPD Blue” was given a negative review after an episode where Dennis Franz’s character Detective Sipowicz tells God to “kiss his ass.”
The next week, however, Sipowicz receives counsel from a priest. PTC executive director Mark Honig said the negatives of the one episode outweighed the positives of the follow-up seg.