Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Gimme Back My Firstborn!

Dear AMC:  

Let me say first, I am a huge fan.  I love that I can count on you to see movies that are the equivalent of an old friend.  Movies like The Shawshank RedemptionThelma and Louise, the Lethal Weapon series (hey, we've all got some questionable friends whom we love just the same).  You currently air several series I'd be totally into if I didn't have two small children, one of whose hours are more like a cabaret singer than a preschooler - namely Breaking Bad and Hell on Wheels.  

And of course, there's Mad Men, which is nothing short of genius.  

There's nothing I wouldn't give for MM.  Having been deprived of a new episode for what seems like forever, before yesterday I'd have given you my firstborn to know what happened to ol' Donny D and his new missus.  

And because you guys seem so wise, so possessed of an understanding of our very human needs, I presumed I actually could give you my firstborn for a couple of hours and you'd be nothing short of phenomenal.

And, oh Saint Peter on Rye, did you fail me!  

As Ricky Ricardo would say, "Let me 'splain."  Around dinnertime last night, the eve of Monday, December 26, I'd been finishing up a League of Their Own.  Self-indulgently, I decided to leave that movie on when the kids got up from their naps.  Yes, I was being a bad TV watching mommy, letting the TV serve as background.  I didn't pay attention to the commercials - coming attractions or otherwise - as the kids really weren't really watching.  My three year old did, however, hear that The Polar Express would be coming on, and he was thrilled.  

Our family all gathered on the sofa to watch. Within the first ten minutes, on the lower left corner appeared a faceless zombie, with the words The Walking Dead and then the words Hell on Wheels appeared.  Our son noticed neither, thank God, and if he did, said nothing.  I wondered the effect on an older child with stronger reading and observational skills.

Then cut to the first commercial.  A teaser for Hell on Wheels.  "Oh dear," I said.  "It won't be bad," my husband replied, sure you guys would keep it clean.  After all, it was a 7 p.m. children's movie.  The first four cuts, relatively innocuous - shots of the principal characters, a Native American warrior, pivotal scenes, then a wagon getting blown up and bodies flying through the air, followed by a man shooting another man in the chest.  

Good Googly Woo! I grabbed the remote control to change the channel, putting me in the no-win situation of either returning prematurely to another similarly gruesome showing, or coming back late and missing parts of the movie.  

This unfortunate situation repeated itself throughout the showing of the movie.  One commercial for a video entitled the Apocalypse of World War II showed huge bombs going off and men in trenches shooting at each other.  I almost knocked my son off the couch for diving for the remote.  

Hello?! At 7 p.m. no less, you showed a sweet, innocent movie about Santa Claus interspersed with some of the most family-unfriendly commercials you could get your hands on (short of Grand Theft Auto IV). What were you thinking?  Or were you not doing so at all?  Did you not care? Were you just doing business as normal, plugging your regular content?  Seriously, the incongruity of the movie versus the commercials was almost a joke, like an overdone sketch on SNL.

Why, AMC, why?  You are intelligent people.  Do you not care about families with small children who want to spend time with you?  Perhaps I should be one of those people who turns off the cable and only watches videos, but I like TV.  I like it a lot.  I want my children to know that in TV, as with most of everything, there's good and there's bad.  I don't, however, want my son becoming inured to violence, finding it commonplace and ho-hum, nor do I want to frighten him. He has plenty of time to see the horrible things people are capable of doing to each other. Most of all, he should be able to watch a children's movie where, as a parent, I can trust that the commercials are acceptable for a preschool-age child.  

I am not some crazy, easily offended moralistic mom - you know the type - one of those ladies who gets in a snit over Ben and Jerry's Schweddy Balls ice cream.  Far from it.  I only wish that those in charge of commercial content during The Polar Express had shown an inkling of the brainpower and, dare I say it, sensitivity, evident in your overall programming.  


1 comment:

  1. That drives me crazy as well!! You would think you are safe when they show Polar Express! I totally get it if they want to be a grown up network, but who the heck do they think is going to watch Polar Express!!! I don't know if I could give up Mad Men for this though. I know, I know, I'm a bad mommy! I'm just somewhat addicted to that show! Lol!! All kidding aside you are so right! Thanks for bringing it to my attention!!


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