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I just want my rights back

Irritating interference from TV watchdog organization forces conservatism, limits viewers

I Just Want My Pants Back, a new MTV series which premiered last August but began airing regularly this February, is the latest show to ruffle the feathers of the watchdog group Parents Television Council (PTC). Focusing on the lives of four post-grads living in Brooklyn, IJWMPB regularly depicts promiscuity and drug use, which, despite the fact the characters are firmly in the realm of adulthood, has the PTC up in arms.

The PTC disapproves of a number of shows geared toward youth audiences, including the smash hit Glee (Fox) and Gossip Girl (The CW), mostly because of their references to pre-marital sex, homosexuality or drug use. While these complaints may be warranted, as both shows are targeted at younger demographics, complaints about a show like IJWMPB - which airs at 11 p.m. Thursday evenings after Jersey Shore - are simply impractical.

Arguing the show is intended for pre-teens is ludicrous. I don't know any 12-year-olds who are awake at 11 p.m. without having explicit parental permission. The PTC does not need to make such a big deal out of a show which is clearly targeted at adults. MTV is a young-adult channel, not a pre-adolescent channel. If parents are upset about their children watching mature content on TV, then they should monitor what their children watch - just like my parents monitored what I watched when I was growing up in Europe, where television is far less censored than it is in the United States.

By comparing the U.S. rating system to the United Kingdom's or Greece's, it becomes clear that the freedom of expression on American television, whether it be network or cable, is much lower. If it aired in my hometown of Athens, Greece, IJWMPB would definitely not create the backlash it has here. Across the pond, cussing and sexual content is rampant on prime time television. The key difference is profanity or sexuality have to tie into the plot line. If not, people simply won't watch and the program will be banished to the 3 a.m. "soft porn" time slot on the sketchier channels. By leaving content discrimination to viewers, shows succeed and fail based on their overall merit, not the moral whims of an uptight council.

TV programmers aid self-regulation in Europe by putting more mature programming at later time slots. Shows with more explicit content - such as the scandalous historical drama The Tudors, which aired at 9 p.m. on BBC2 - simply are shown later at night than more family-oriented fare. When The Tudors came to the United States, however, it was only picked up by premium cable channel Showtime.

European cable channel E4 shows the BAFTA winning show Skins at 10 p.m. There has been no public outcry, and the series is going strong during its sixth season. MTV cancelled the North American version of Skins after one season following an intense campaign by the PTC to get it taken off the air.

The PTC creates a ruckus about every show which might be deemed a little racy, but I've noticed many of the more inappropriate shows intentionally push the envelope as a direct challenge to the PTC and censorship in general. Perhaps if the PTC let American viewers independently decide what is acceptable to watch, the States would have more quality shows. A note to the PTC: give us our pants back, and let us make our own decisions.


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