PASADENA, California (AP) ― If there’s any soul-searching among top television executives about onscreen violence contributing to real-life tragedies like the Connecticut school shooting, it isn’t readily apparent.
All say the horrors of Newtown and Aurora, Colorado, rocked them. But during a series of meetings with reporters here over the last 10 days, none offered concrete examples of how it is changing what they put on the air, or if that is necessary.
“I’m not a psychologist, so I’m not sure you can make the leap (that) a show about serial killers has caused the sort of problems with violence in our country,’’ said Robert Greenblatt, who put “Dexter’’ on the air when he ran the pay cable TV network Showtime and is now overseeing development of a series on the notorious creep Hannibal Lecter for NBC. “There are many, many other factors, from mental illness to guns.’’
|A scene from the FX original series, “Sons of Anarchy” (AP-Yonhap News)|
All of those points are being considered by Vice President Joe Biden as he prepares to make recommendations Tuesday to President Barack Obama on ways to curb violence.
Television’s biggest influence is its omnipresence; the average American watches more than four hours of television a day.
In recent days, only FX President John Landgraf said he was in favor of further study about any correlation between entertainment and real violence. Previous studies have been mixed.
Landgraf has sons aged 15, 12 and 9 and said he doesn’t let them play video games in which the player is shooting.
Everything the entertainment industry does should be fair game in a discussion about violence, he said. But he pointed out that the zombie series “Walking Dead’’ and brutally violent “Sons of Anarchy’’ are both very popular in Britain and that country has far fewer gun murders than the United States. The availability of powerful assault weapons and ammunition are most responsible for the difference, he said.
The Newtown shooting was heartbreaking, said Paul Lee, ABC entertainment president. “We welcome the conversation as to how we as a culture can make sure that we don’t let these events happen again,’’ he said.
He said ABC has strong standards for what it broadcasts, stronger than its competitors.
The appetite for “Walking Dead’’ and “Texas Chainsaw 3-D’’ among young viewers is not lost on any TV executive, and bottom line pressure speaks most loudly to them. Broadcast networks feel a particular need to push the envelope when they see cable programs making noise with an ability to show more explicit scenes.
The same week that Lee talked about ABC’s standards, the network’s hit “Scandal’’ had a scene depicting waterboarding.
Fox has a highly anticipated series due later this month, “The Following,’’ about a serial killer who recruits deadly disciples, and its gruesome scenes include a woman who commits suicide by gouging her eye and piercing her skull with an ice pick, and a man set on fire at a coffee stand.