Parents Television Council report shows persistence of TV violence
NEW YORK (AP) -- Violence, gore and gunplay were staples on prime-time television even in the most sensitive period directly after the Newtown school shooting.
A study of 392 prime-time scripted programs on broadcast networks shown during the month after Vice President Joe Biden's January meeting with entertainment industry executives on the topic revealed that 193 had some incident of violence, according to the Parents Television Council.
Some are cartoonish -- quite literally, with Homer strangling Bart for mouthing off on "The Simpsons" -- but there is plenty of gunplay, stabbings and beat-downs.
Here's a sample of the incidents captured by the PTC between Jan. 11 and Feb. 11:
n A character on ABC's "Body of Proof" says he dreams of ripping a woman's brain out while she's still alive, but he's shot as he's about to stick a hook up her nose. Then he's pushed off a balcony and killed.
n A woman on Fox's "The Following" jams an ice pick into her eye.
n A man on CBS' "Criminal Minds" is shot dead by the FBI as he tries to cut the eyelids off a gallery owner's face.
n A gymnastics coach is stabbed several times in the groin on NBC's "Law & Order: SVU."
Real life has continued to intrude on television entertainment as the months go by. NBC pulled an episode of its serial killer drama "Hannibal" after the Boston Marathon bombing, as did ABC with a "Castle" episode in which a character stepped on a pressure-sensitive bomb. Some Newtown parents objected to a recent "Glee" episode that depicted a school shooting.
"I think it is only going to get worse," said Dr. Victor Strasburger, pediatrics professor at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine, who has written frequently on the topic of violence in the media. He said media executives are "not willing to own up to their public health responsibilities."
TV executives are reluctant to talk about violent content, and when pressed question any link between what they air on television and aggressive behavior in real life.
Schedules get shifted around when tragic events are in the news, but there's no indication they've changed the types of programs being made.
Policy debates largely have overlooked the issue, focusing instead on background checks for gun owners or bans on assault weapons.
In the past, networks have disputed some of the PTC methodology.
Some comedic moments are counted as violent episodes in PTC's study when they could be questioned, such as a play sword fight on "The Cleveland Show."
Still, it's a sobering body count.
The parents' group said it found not only an increase in gore from other studies it has conducted over 18 years but a greater specificity and darkness to the violence.
"There has been no accountability, in my opinion, in terms of the degree and amount of violence," said Tim Winter, the parents' group president.