Jewish World Review June 7, 1999 /23 Sivan 5759
(JWR) ---- (http://www.jewishworldreview.com)
Before last season's summer reruns fade from view, special recognition should be paid to one canceled show that was a model for what many politicians and the public say they want but decreasingly get. That show was "Promised Land.''
The Thursday-night CBS program was about an out-of-work veteran (played by Gerald McRaney) who, along with his intact heterosexual family (a species that virtually disappears this fall on the networks), conducted a nomadic exploration of America. Not only did they help people with problems along the way, the family discovered the greater blessings that come from giving instead of receiving. This past season the family settled in Denver where the show's executive producer Martha Williamson -- the best writer working in television today -- had them sorting out racial tensions in an integrated neighborhood. The show not only entertained, it instructed in ways that completely elude the race commission.
Teen angst (portrayed by two very credible young actors, Austin O'Brien and Sarah Schaub) was effectively dealt with in a family environment presided over by a grandmother, Celeste Holm, McRaney and his screen wife, Wendy Phillips. The plots were compelling and contemporary. While the show scored higher in the ratings than other programs that were renewed, it didn't rate with the demographics we're told advertisers prefer -- the 18-34-year-olds, with the emphasis on the teen wing of that age spread.
CBS President Les Moonves recently attended a small White House gathering of entertainment executives. Concern was expressed by the Clinton administration, in light of recent high school shootings, about the rising levels of violence on television and in films. "Promised Land'' would seem to be an ideal antidote to such cultural poison, but within days of the White House meeting, Moonves pulled the plug on the show.
This fall, with a few exceptions, it's programs for the zit-and-training bra set. Where traditional families once abounded, now homosexual characters more abound. According to TV, it seems all the world is gay and everybody else is an irrelevant minority. Writing in The New York Times, Bernard Weinraub notes "the degree of cynicism and self-satisfaction among television executives and writer-producers who proudly showed off their newest sitcoms and seemed in denial over just how terrible they were.'' Just how out of touch these TV moguls are was apparent in the comments made by a WB network executive, who Weinraub heard tell an audience of advertisers and local affiliate executives that adults should watch WB to learn how to deal with their children.
The networks know their audience is dwindling, but they don't blame themselves. They fault the Internet and other entertainment sources. If the networks seek only teens, they will have no adult audience to return to once fickle adolescents move on to other things, like adulthood. The next generation could fail to develop the habit of watching TV because their parents have realized how poisonous it has become and might turn it off in favor of reading or (gasp!) family conversation.
The problem with "Promised Land'' was that it was too good for prime time. It made you
think about things that matter -- family, doing good deeds, racial reconciliation. We say we
need more of this, but we get less. Does this make sense? Only if you're a network
06/03/99:The Creator and Commencement