The Newtown, Conn., elementary school massacre has spurred a debate about the level of depravity and violence the entertainment industry markets to audiences. And it is likely to become a theme at the semi-annual Television Critics Association press tour with NBC and Fox introducing midseason dramas that center on serial killers.
NBC’s Hannibal is based on the books by Thomas Harris and revolves around a psychiatrist-turned-killer played by Mads Mikkelson (the villain from James Bond’s Casino Royale), and Fox will bow the Kevin Bacon thriller The Following on Jan. 21.
“I think it weighs on all of us,” NBC Entertainment chairman Robert Greenblatt told reporters gathered in Pasadena Sunday for the first broadcast network session of the tour. “Most people at this network have children and really care about the shows that we’re putting out there. It’s always in our mind. This just brought it to the forefront.”
Most of the criticism in the wake of the shooting – during which 20 six and seven-year-olds and six teachers and administrators were killed by a suicidal gunman with a semi-automatic rifle – has centered on violent video games and the National Rifle Association’s aggressive lobbying tactics. And Greenblatt noted that broadcast television – unlike cable – is governed by FCC-imposed parameters. “I would look to movies and dare I say video games,” he said.
Greenblatt, who developed Dexter while head of Showtime, admitted that cable content is “no holds barred.” But he questioned a causal link between violent television and violent behavior.
“I’m not a psychologist,” he said. “So I’m not sure you can make the leap that a show about serial killers has caused violence in our country. There are many other factors including mental illness and guns.”
Greenblatt also took a shot at Criminal Minds, saying the CBS drama “is worse than Dexter ever was.” And NBC Entertainment president Jennifer Salke defended Hannibal, saying it’s not a “shoot ‘em up show.” She added that the network constantly assesses the content on sereis incluidng Law & Order: SVU which centers on sex crimes and she noted that NBC is not neccessarily trolling for violent programming.
“We’re not out there saying, ‘Can we get some more serial killer shows because we really love this Hannibal one.”
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