ABC's new comedy "The Real O'Neals," which promises viewers a show about a family that "stops pretending to be perfect and actually starts being real," is deceiving viewers with its PG rating, according to the Parents Television Council.
The cheeky, no-holds-barred comedy, which makes fun of subjects ranging from pedophilia to divorce to contract killing and eating disorders, was recently praised by ABC Entertainment President Paul Lee as being " … full of family and faith and joy and humor." But not everyone is laughing.
PTC President Tim Winter says the show's over-the-top content exceeds the boundaries of its PG rating and is calling for the FCC and Congress to overhaul the TV Content Ratings System.
"The amount of explicit content is surprising," Winter told The Christian Post. The TV content expert found it ironic that ABC's parent company, Disney, would stamp a show like 'The Real O'Neals' with the same content rating as some of its fairytale fare. "They rate their movies like 'Cinderella' PG, and they're rating this show PG, and I don't know how you could possibly ever put [them] in the same category, but they do."
A show's content rating is similar to a food label in a supermarket, Winter explained, and should inform consumers about what they're about to ingest. "['The Real O'Neals'] is mislabeled for consumption based upon age and content, and that's why we're so concerned ... "
The PTC president noted some of the show's objectionable content, including an episode in which a school vice principal converses with students using the words "douche," "slut-shamer," "slut-bag," and "slut basket." The vice principal also makes light of child molestation when he indicates that he'll be "sleeping with all the other boys" at the school.
To this, Winter asked, "Why should there ever be jokes about pedophilia on television, regardless of its rating? At what point in time do we as a nation want to make jokes and laugh at the idea of a school vice principal having sex with children of the school? I hope the answer is never."
"The Real O'Neals" contained an instance of adult content every 43 seconds, according to a recent study by the PTC. About 83 percent of all the adult-themed content was sexual — the majority of it involving the show's 16-year-old main character, Kenny.
Content like the kind found in "The Real O'Neals" is evidence of an "increasing coarseness" in the way people intereact on television, said Winter. "Everywhere, people are becoming less civil."
Winter also believes that media outlets are partly to blame. "I think that the media was at the forefront of this whole change. That they helped pave the way by ... kind of desensitizing the public to this kind of dialogue. ... It's just now become more acceptable in the public square because we've been desensitized to it through the media that we've consumed over the years."
Would moving "The Real O'Neals" to a later time slot make it less of a threat for PG audiences? Not according to Winter, who noted: "This show airs at 8:30 p.m. Eastern, that's 7:30 p.m. in half the country. … Regardless of whatever time zone you're in, children are out there watching television at 8:30, and the network should know that. So the time of day is certainly something that is even more concerning than just the content rating itself."
He further explained that airing the show later in the evening still wouldn't put it out of reach for younger audiences because recording devices set for PG-rated shows will still pick it up. "Even if it were on at 10 p.m., it's still rated PG ... you would think that PG would be OK, regardless of what time it is."
For PTC, the PG rating of "The Real O'Neals" is a symptom of a much larger issue. "From our standpoint, this rating system — we've been saying for quite some time that it's inaccurate and it's arbitrary and it's self-serving to the TV networks," he told CP. "['The Real O'Neals'] is a great example of just how it is failing to serve the needs of parents and families. If parents are going to rely on the rating system to give them counsel, to say, 'Here's content that is rated PG,' most parents would say, 'OK, this is appropriate for my child.'"
The PTC is therefore mounting an effort to overhaul the TV Content Ratings System. In a letter sent to the FCC on Monday the TV watchdog is leading a coalition of 26 other organizations, including the American Family Association — which recently blasted "The Real O'Neals" for mocking Christianity — in an effort to petition the FCC and members of Congress for TV ratings reform.
"The content ratings system as currently constituted is deeply flawed because the power to assign program content ratings was assigned to the same networks where the content originates," the letter reads in part. "This has created an inherent and tremendous conflict of interest: It is to a network's advantage to mis-rate its programming for a younger audience so as to gain a larger viewing audience."
The document goes on to say, " ... the body charged with oversight of the television content ratings system is comprised of those whom it is supposed to be monitoring. Under the current system, the same people who create TV content then rate the content they've created, and also run the board that oversees the rating process. They also produce an occasional public opinion survey that validates the current system.