If you were going to rank the “top” 25 moments in television over the past 25 years, would your list include the show that ushered foul language and nudity into prime time? Would your list include the first show to routinely feature teenagers getting drunk and “hooking up?” Would your list include the show known for dropping more f-bombs and body bags in an hour than many series do over an entire season?
You must not be the television critic for
In the May 14 edition of the paper, TV reporter Robert Bianco lists his Top 25 TV moments from the past quarter century. Bianco placed these shows or incidents on the list because they created “seismic changes that altered the broadcast landscape.” Bianco is right about those “seismic changes” – the entertainment media have ravaged American culture like an earthquake.
TV programming today is often much coarser, more violent and more sexual than it was 25 years ago. While Bianco included many brilliant moments in television history, he also listed shows that broke down the barriers for much of today's raunchy programming, which fills the airwaves with continuous assaults on traditional moral values and responsible standards of behavior.
In March the Culture and Media Institute released its National Cultural Values Survey, which revealed that a vast majority of Americans believe the media, both news and entertainment, are contributing to moral decline. More than half of Bianco's Top 25 TV Moments are the proof in the pudding. They include:
- The Sopranos
The OJ Simpson Trial
The Real World
Janet Jackson's Wardrobe Malfunction in the 2004 Super Bowl
Dan Rather leaving CBS News after the falsified report on President Bush
Ellen Degeneres professing to be “gay” on her sitcom
Dan Quayle taking Murphy Brown to task for marginalizing the role of fathers
An episode of the Jenny Jones tabloid talk show that led to the murder of one of her guests
The Daily Show
The Anita Hill/Clarence Thomas hearings
These programs and moments are glaring examples of what many Americans think is wrong with television today:
Graphic violence and foul language (including the f-bomb) – NYPD Blue, The Sopranos
Teen sex no longer considered taboo on television – The Real World,
Bianco also includes a handful of bright spots on his list like The Cosby Show, the news coverage of 9/11, PBS's documentary The Civil War, American Idol, and Johnny Carson's last show. But the list of positive TV moments pales in comparison to the list of shows that have opened the door ever wider for attacks on personal responsibility, traditional morality and truth.
Interestingly, in the National Cultural Values Survey, 74 percent of Americans say they think moral values are weaker today than they were 20 years ago. Two-thirds of those say the media are a major player in that decline. Bianco's list, which goes back 25 years, points the finger at some of the biggest culprits.