The PTC released the results of its study of the 2005-2006 TV season concluding that religious themes had become more scarce on network TV but that when religion was addressed it was more likely to be portrayed in a negative light.
“After Mel Gibson’s film, “The Passion of the Christ,” there was a lot of talk that Hollywood finally had found religion,” said PTC president Brent Bozell. “But with television, sadly, this wasn’t true. In fact, it was the opposite.”
Religion came up a lot less on network TV, about half as many times during the 2005-2006 season as in 2003-2004, dropping to 1,425 mentions from 2,344. Some of that can be attributed to the cancellation of CBS’ “Joan of Arcadia,” which was replaced with “Ghost Whisperer,” prompting CBS topper Leslie Moonves to quip, “Ghosts skew younger than God.”
Religion was portrayed more negatively than positively, but only slightly more so. Negative portrayals led positive ones by 35% to 34%.
But certain types of religious references were overwhelmingly positive. By the PTC’s own measure, “simple expressions of faith” were depicted positively nearly 70% of the time. By contrast, “institutions and doctrine” negative nearly 50%, as described by the PTC, though several of the references cited fall under the heading of broad comedies, including Fox’s animated shows.
Among the negative portrayals cited as egregious by the PTC were from several episodes of Family Guy, including a scene where Jesus phones God who is portrayed lying in bed with a woman. God hangs up on Jesus and leers at the woman, who holds up a condom. God responds: “Oh, come on, baby. It’s my birthday.”
Another clear example of satire on “Family Guy,” however crude, had God creating the universe by passing gas and lighting a match.
Helped by “Family Guy,” “The Simpsons,” and “House,” Fox unseated longtime champion NBC as the “most anti-religious network” according to the PTC. NBC came in second followed by UPN, ABC, CBS and The WB.