Wednesday's announcement by the four broadcast networks that they will begin issuing warnings when violence appears in movies, miniseries and specials is a step in the right direction.
However, these warnings can't keep children from watching inappropriate programs. That's up to the parents.And I have to say that I'm skeptical about how successful this will be, because I doubt many parents will pay attention to the warnings.
In at attempt to stave off legislation, ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox will warn that "Due to some violent content, parental discretion is advised" before some programming. The networks will also provide that information to listings services that provide television schedules to newspapers and magazines.
But the networks can't make kids turn off the TV set, or change the channel. And will parents?
The television warnings are analogous to the movie ratings system, and that doesn't seem to have met with fabulous success as far as an awful lot of parents are concerned. Just attend a screening of the mega-hit "Jurassic Park" and see how many young kids - some 3, 4 or 5 years old - are in the audience.
This for an intensely violent, frightening movie that's rated PG-13.
With some frequency, I hear from parents who are appalled at what's on television these days. But a good number of those parents - a clear majority of those I've spoken with in the past three years - don't do much if anything to regulate what their kids watch.
I'm continually appalled myself when groups of schoolchildren tour the Deseret News and I have a chance to talk to them. Kids as young as 7 or 8 tell me that their favorite shows are "Married . . . With Children," "Martin" and "In Living Color."
These are not shows kids should be watching. Where are their parents?
This is far from an original thought, but it holds true - would these same parents allow some stranger off the street to come into their homes and say and do anything in front of their children? That's exactly what parents are doing when they don't monitor their kids' television viewing.
This is not to say that I have a perfect record at home with what I allow my kids to watch. I've made mistakes.
But I fear that many parents don't take the time to know what their kids are watching. Even some who try apparently aren't paying much attention.
One couple I know does not allow their kids - who range in age from 2 to 12 - to watch "The Simpsons." They do, however, let them watch "Beverly Hills, 90210."
Which is not to say that "90210" is an evil force that will corrupt every child who watches it. In fact, if parents watch the program with their kids - their older kids - it can open avenues of discussion to subjects that range from sex to drugs to peer pressure.
But they have to watch it with their kids.
None of this excuses the networks for some of the objectionable material they broadcast into our homes. But, again, if parents took responsibility and both monitored and regulated their children's television viewing, that objectionable material would not be entering the home.
It's up to parents to make these new warnings work.
MINI MOGULS: Those cute little girls on "Full House" - 7-year-old twins Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen - are turning into media moguls.
They've just signed a contract with ABC that guarantees their very own production company - Dualstar - will produce movies, specials and even a new series for ABC.
That's right. When "Full House" goes off the air - which won't be any time soon - ABC has guaranteed the Olsens 13 episodes of a new show.
In return, ABC will profit from the twins' upcoming record album ("I Am the Cute One") and music-video ("Mary-Kate and Ashley: Our First Video").
Gee, being cute can really carry you a long way - even if you have no apparent talent other than cuteness.
DAVE'S WORLD: CBS' most-anticipated new show this fall is "Dave's World," a sitcom based on the life of humor columnist Dave Barry. (His column runs in the Sunday Deseret News each week.)
Barry, who will be played by Harry Anderson of "Night Court" fame, won't be involved in the show, although his columns will be the basis for episodes. (The pilot is from a Barry column about coaching his son's soccer team.)
The producers have also bought the rights to his two books - "Dave Barry Turns 40" and "Dave Barry's Greatest Hits."
The biggest change from fact to fiction is that while the real Barry has one son, a 12 year old, the fictional Barry will have two, ages 10 and 6.
WEIRD. REALLY WEIRD: The following is a press release ABC sent to TV writers this week. An actual, unedited press release. Really:
"Joan Lunden is celebrating a blessed event in her household.
"But before you jump to conclusions, the "baby" actually is a foal born to her daughters' pony, Look Who's Talking, on Saturday, June 26 at 7:17 a.m.
"Mother and pony, named Parker, are doing fine - and so is the surrogate mother, Joan, who rushed to the stable in Pawling, New York, along with her three daughters, Jamie, Lindsay and Sarah, to see the much-anticipated outcome of the 11-month gestation period. They arrived just in time to see Parker standing up on his own for the first time.
"Surprisingly, the horse gave birth on her due date, having been bred with one of the country's top pony stallions, Carolina's Red Fox, in Maryland, last July."
Just two comments:
First - Joan, get a life.
Second - ABC, things are slow in the summer, but this is ridiculous.