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Why Parents Television Council president says Hollywood shouldn’t ‘sex up’ family content

POSTED September 22, 2017 6:01 a.m.
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Hulu and Netflix are celebrating big wins from last weekend’s Emmys. But although they won many of the night's top awards, not everyone is happy about their content.

“When I saw the (Emmy) results, it seemed like there should have been a sign that came with it that said ‘Families not welcome,’” said Parents Television Council President Tim Winter in a phone interview with the Deseret News.

Winter said he hopes both Netflix and Hulu add more family programming to account for the millions of people who want such content.

“Given the Emmy awards success that Hulu and Netflix had, we urge those streaming services to invest more into high-quality content that the entire family — not just mature audiences — can watch,” Winter said in a statement. “By only obsessively focusing on dark, edgy and explicit content, they are restricting their own financial success.”

Winter said it would be a good business move for these companies to produce more movies and TV shows the whole family can watch.

He said Netflix, Hulu and Amazon are “ignoring” all of those who “don’t want to have the other explicit stuff.”

“My concern is when you have high-quality, adult-themed entertainment, it can be financially successful,” he said. “When you have high-quality family entertainment, financially speaking, it is extraordinarily successful.”

Winter said box office numbers show there’s an appetite for family friendly material.

Indeed there is. The highest-grossing movie of 2017 so far has been “Beauty and the Beast,” a PG-rated film that earned $504 million at the box office, according to Box Office Mojo.

Meanwhile, “Wonder Woman” and “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” (both rated PG-13) were close behind, with $411.4 million and $389.8 million earned.

“Despicable Me 3” is ranked at No. 5 for the year with $261.1 million, and “The Lego Batman Movie” is ranked at No. 10 with $175 million, according to Box Office Mojo.

Instead of building new franchises, show creators are showing a tendency now to take older shows and bring them back with an edgier tone, Winter said.

He pointed to Netflix original “Fuller House” as an example. Its predecessor, “Full House,” was family friendly and clean. This new show features drinking, clubbing and sexual humor.

He said it’s an example of the creative community taking an older, trusted franchise and naming it “family programming” despite its saltier language, sexual innuendos and edgy plot.

“That’s not the way to do it. You don’t need to ‘sex up’ ‘Full House’ in order to make ‘Fuller House,'" he said.

He also pointed to “Once Upon a Time” as a show that took a family friendly idea — Snow White and her experiences with the seven dwarfs — and made it darker and edgier.

So what does good family programming look like? Winter pointed to the CBS show “Blue Bloods” — a crime drama that focuses on a family of police officers in New York.

“Here’s a show that is about police officers, crime-solving,” Winter said. “It’s a very powerful drama, and yet they produce it in a way so as there’s no shock value for the sake of shock value. It’s heartwarming, it’s powerful, it’s compelling, it’s fun to watch.”

Winter and the PTC picked some of the top family programs debuting on TV this fall, with the new CBS show “Me, Myself & I” topping the list. The show depicts a man’s life from when he was 14 to when he suffers a heart attack at 65.

“The PTC recommends this program as one for parents and children to watch — and discuss — together,” according to the PTC website.

For Winter, family programming “doesn’t have the elements of pandering to the lowest common denominator, always having to use profanity or sexually explicit dialogue to get a laugh,” he said.

Winter wrote to Netflix CEO Reed Hastings last week, calling for the network to develop its family programming.

He also called for Netflix to partner with ClearPlay and VidAngel, two services that filter out mature content to make viewing more family friendly.

But streaming services don’t have to rush to those partnerships, Winter said. Instead, he suggested Netflix and Hulu build high-quality content that can be watched by the whole family without filtering.

“Rather than producing stuff that we have to filter to consume as families, why not produce more that we don’t have to filter? Produce what appeals to a more mainstream audience across the nation,” Winter said.

Winter said there’s no way to know when there will be enough family friendly content. It’s not a distinct percentage or number of movies, but he does hope to see more.

“I don’t know if there’s a magical number that happens and then we say, 'All is well,'" Winter said. “The highest-grossing movies are the movies that are high-quality, high production value, but the family can enjoy together.”

He added, “We call on those in Hollywood and the creative community to create more of it.”

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