Ad Messages, news, and the Year of the Tiger / by Victor Currie

I know that some parents don't let their children watch any television.  I can't quite go there, and not just because I work in TV.  We live in a media-centric society today, and hiding from it isn't going to make it go away.

It is, however, more difficult than ever to control the messages our kids have access to.

For example, my 8-year-old son loves auto racing (almost as much as Wii). He can quote stats on Formula One, Indycar, and NASCAR.  We taught him to think of more complex math problems when he was sic by asking questions like "What's Jimmy Johnson's number plus Jeff Gordon's number," and he'd immediately be able to say 72 (24+48).  I liked that he was enjoying the thrill of the sports, and honestly believe that he got far more out of it than if he'd been watching such drek as Spongebob.

But lately, I've kept his NASCAR watching to the Sprint Cup.  I know it has all the Viagra ads, but at least they kind of tie that to ED and he's not all that curious yet as to why that's an issue, but it just flies on by along with the Lipitor and other pharmaceuticals.  We're avoiding the Nationwide Series races though, ever since they decided to put Extenz on a car as a sponsor.  I don't want to have to explain the specifics of that one.  The line is fine, but there's a difference in message. (I'm no prude on this. I've even directed a competing spot.)

The Family Hour has gone by the wayside. The news is more interested in prurient details than national and world issues.  Yesterday's news was filled with stories about John Edwards' mistress Reille Hunter wearing something skimpy in a magazine. Who cares? (Beyond being a non-story, she's not particularly attractive for the kind of attention they gave her - sorry if that sounds sexist, but c'mon.)

The whole Tiger Woods mess brings up the words of the wise philosopher Charles Barkley, who specifically reminded us, "I'm not a role model." 

It's like the whole Proposition 8 campaign in California. Right in the middle of our then 7-year-old's favorite primetime show at the time, Deal or No Deal, came back to back campaign ads declaring that our children will find out all about gay marriage if we didn't vote yes.  Hey campaign people: You just told them about it, forced the discussions earlier than necessary, and defeated your argument even though the bill passed.  All you got was a bunch of people who ended up not being able to get married, while the kids you supposedly wanted to "protect" found out all about it from you (and largely shrugged it off and asked for the Wii remote).

It's just getting harder and harder to let kids keep a little of their innocence. If it isn't safe to watch an innocuous game show with your kids, what's left?

I'm just glad that the DVR came along in time to let us now skim past most of the commercials. But that's pretty painful for me as a commercial director.