Melissa Henson, director of Grassroots Education and Advocacy at the Parents Television Council, joined SiriusXM radio’s Breitbart News Daily on Wednesday, to discuss how Hollywood keeps missing the mark in creating family-friendly content to appeal to this massive demographic.
As a follow-up to her Breitbart News article, Henson commented on ABC’s adult-themed reboot of The Muppets, a previous family institution, and broader issues with family TV programming in general.
Breitbart executive chairman Steven K. Bannon asked Henson, “Where do we stand with television today, and why is it getting so vulgar and coarse?”
“If you ask folks in the entertainment industry, they would probably tell you, ‘Oh, well, we’re just delivering what audiences want,’ but I think that’s clearly and demonstrably not true,” said Henson.
And the way we know it’s not true is because when you look at TV ratings, it’s generally not the shows that the critics love, it’s not the shows that get a lot of press coverage that are most popular with viewers, but when the networks offer something like The Sound of Music Live… or CBS last year ran back-to-back re-runs of I Love Lucy, which beat the Mad Men season finale in the ratings. So, we know what audiences want because these are the programs they go back to time and time again. But it’s not what the networks are offering.
When they do offer family programming, so often they get it wrong. And then they say, ‘Well, see, there’s proof that nobody wants family programming.’ But it’s not that we don’t want family programming. It’s that they don’t know how to program for families.
While discussing the current state of The Muppets, Henson explained it’s no longer just celebrity guests and sing-alongs, but an overwhelming amount of content seemingly targeted to adults.
“What we’ve seen is a large amount of really inappropriate content, especially given the fact that it does skew to a younger audience. It does draw a younger audience. We’ve seen drug references. We’ve seen alcohol references. A lot of sexual innuendo,” she said. “I think the ratings really tell the story.”
“When it debuted they had over 9 million viewers,” she said. “By week four, they had less than half that… they were just over 4 million viewers.”
“And I think it’s because a lot of the people tuned in for that first week optimistically thinking, ‘Hey, here’s something I can share with my kids,’ and realized very quickly that this is not something they want to expose their kids to,” Henson continued.
“Our primary concern is that parents should know what’s going on. If they think that this is The Muppets that they grew up with, it’s not,” Henson concluded.
Variety reports Bob Kushell, executive producer and co-showrunner of ABC’s The Muppets, is now exiting the show amid reports he has been clashing with colleague Bill Prady over the “creative direction” of the series.
Find out more about the Parents Television Council here.