In his culture column this week, Brent Bozell unveiled a new study from the Parents Television Council (cleverly titled "Dying to Entertain") that found that the 2005-2006 TV season was the most violent in recent history. In fact, there has been a 75 percent increase in prime-time TV violence since the 1998 season. Some of the examples of creepiness and gore are pretty extreme. The other inspiration for the column is the debut of "The Sopranos" on basic cable at a price to A&E of 2.5 million smackers an episode:
The latest landmark (or landfill) in the TV world is the arrival of HBO’s pay-cable mob drama “The Sopranos” on the basic-cable channel A&E, where now virtually anyone with cable can watch. How carefully is this show with mature-themed sex, violence, and profanity vetted for general audiences? TV critics wailed that any snip is messing with the “artistic integrity,” but the Hollywood Reporter reassured fans that “a few judicious snips to a series can be made without snuffing its profane soul.”
The early word is that the makers of “The Sopranos” prepared their Mafia-milking cash cow for general audiences by double-shooting scenes with clothed strippers and lots of uses of the word “freaking.” Still, the eye-opening violence is pretty much left untouched. “Have no fear, mayhem fans,” cooed the TV critic of the San Diego Union-Tribune, since A&E is “letting them act like gangsters and talk like dorks.”
The “quality” controllers at A&E have told critics that extraordinarily grisly sequences, such as someone's brains being splattered all over a wall, have been shortened by a second or two. Who says these networks don’t have standards.