EW recently spoke to the president of the Parents Television Council, Tim Winter, who sounds like a big ol’ ball of fun. When he’s not getting simple facts wrong — he calls Dancing With the Stars and The Voice the biggest shows on TV right now, and bristles when EW corrects him with NCIS and The Big Bang Theory — he’s praising Chuck Lorre. Were it up to Winter, television would be 24/7 gooey Touched by an Angel, yet for someone who wants to bring us love (“BREAK ITS LEGS”), he sure has a lot of hate for one show in particular: Sons of Anarchy.
The PTC and Kurt Sutter have battled before, and they’ll likely continue to do so for years to come (which is also how long the average Sons episode took to watch).
What are the best and worst shows on television from a morality standpoint?
Certainly the word “morality” is present with what we do, but we base most of our work on what science says is harmful to kids, and what is certainly offensive to a lot of families. We’re very concerned about Stalker. It’s a show that’s very dark, very graphically explicit. When you go over to the cable side, a show like Sons of Anarchy.
[Note: This interview was conducted before the SoA finale.]
We understand that [creator] Kurt Sutter has every right to produce that show, and a cable network has every right to air it. At least it’s rated appropriately as TV-MA. But our issue is that we’re forced to pay for it as part of our cable bundle. We went after them about the scene where the kid loads up the machine gun and walks into a school and starts shooting. We went after [Sutter] on that and he seemed to bristle and call us idiots, saying that we didn’t understand what he was trying to do, that he was trying to create a dialogue. There was no effort to create a dialogue.
What shows do you urge your members to support?
What’s interesting is the two most popular shows on television right now are Dancing With the Stars and The Voice. Both are very family-friendly. We applaud the advertisers who sponsor those shows. They’re the most-watched shows every week that they’re on if there’s not a big football game. Sons of Anarchy can’t hold a torch to those shows in terms of ratings.
The Sons of Anarchy sex montage prompted another common reader response. A lot of our readers noted this was the same episode that featured a man ripping another man’s eyeball out. So many wondered, “Why do these guys object to a sexual relationship, but not the atrocious violence that might be in the same episode?” Viewing violent imagery has been more directly linked to having a negative effect on children.
They’re both harmful. The scientific evidence talks about sexual content and how it affects young children, especially the violence. We talked about the sex scene on Sons of Anarchy because it was groundbreaking in terms of the entire platform of basic cable. The sex montage was the most explicit scene we’d ever seen on basic cable. But we absolutely condemn the explicit violence as well. We don’t have the same leverage as we do on the broadcast side with the sexual content and the profanity because of the way the law is written.
That’s actually his Christmas card, too, though he may also add a certain c-word.