Shock Value On TV: How does it Effect the Audience?

Essay by Curare24High School, 12th gradeA-, October 2003

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In the fifties an episode of "Father Knows Best" was not allowed by the censors to air because it had a scene where a toilet could be seen in the background. In the '99/2000 TV season an episode of Will and Grace" showed Grace taking pictures of a celebrity's toilet, one with the lid down, and one with it up. This is an example of the changing morals in today's television content. One reason morals are declining is shock value. Shock value is a lower form of humour often used in sitcoms to get a cheap laugh of surprise out of the audience. Statistics have shown that shows with high shock value, like "Will and Grace," get good ratings. Unfortunately, something can only be shocking once. Therefore sitcom writers must constantly come up with more and more outrageous situations and reactions to keep the audience laughing. Morals in TV programming have decreased significantly in the last decade due to desensitization of the audience.

A desensitized audience requires a more shocking show, which in turn desensitizes them more. The result of this downward spiral is sitcoms enjoyed by our children that would absolutely sicken our grandparents. The most popular show in 1990 was "Cheers," in 1995 it was "Seinfeld," and in 2000 it was "Ally McBeal." A comparison of these three TV programs will show how portrayals of sex, violence, homosexuality and other situations originally considered inappropriate for the general viewing public have increased in number and severity in the last decade. This increase has resulted in a decrease in morals in society overall.

"Cheers" was a sitcom about a bar's staff and regulars. It was so popular that reruns are still shown regularly on specialty stations. "Cheers" was never violent, and its sexual content was incredibly tame by...