Family Friendly Forum Announces TV Awards

'Everybody Hates Chris' Named Best New Comedy

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LOS ANGELES (AdAge.com) -- A group of more than 40 major advertisers announced awards for family-friendly TV shows last night, only a day after Washington legislators stepped up their attack on what they called indecent and violent programming.


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Honored programs
The Family Friendly Programming Forum, composed of marketers such as Ford Motor Co., Kraft Foods, McDonald's Corp. and Wal-Mart Stores, made some obvious choices in honoring the WB Network's "7th Heaven" with a lifetime achievement award, and naming TNT's "The Wool Cap" as best movie. UPN's new half-hour hit "Everybody Hates Chris," which was financed through the Forum's script development fund, was named best new comedy.

Some less-than-obvious choices included ABC's "Lost" as best drama and CBS's "Amazing Race" as best reality show. The awards reflect a broadened definition of what's considered family-friendly TV, said Dawn Jacobs, co-chair of the group and VP-advertising at Johnson & Johnson.

No cookie-cutter approach
"It's not a cookie-cutter approach to programming," Ms. Jacobs said. "The shows need to be engaging, reflect issues that families face today and resolve them responsibly. There can be a place for just about every kind of storyline."

Because the "Leave it to Beaver" sensibility of years ago doesn't capture today's diverse viewers and their challenges, the definition of what's acceptable and appropriate programming for those families is "purposely broad," Ms. Jacobs said.

ABC Entertainment President Steve McPherson said he thinks "Lost" was a good choice because of its multicultural cast and its redemptive storyline. "People hear 'family friendly' and they think saccharine-sweet, sugar-coated, but that's not the reality," Mr. McPherson said. "By broadening the definition, there's more verisimilitude to what they're recognizing."

Media responsibility
A show must draw viewers across age groups, particularly multi-generational families, to be considered for an award. When the subjects are intense -- teen pregnancy, alcoholism, sexual abuse -- they can encourage discussion among families if they're handled responsibly, another criteria for being honored, Ms. Jacobs said.

Other winners were the CBS comedy "King of Queens;" Jim Belushi as the father figure in ABC's "According to Jim," Reba McEntire as the matriarch of the WB's "Reba" and Ty Pennington as best reality host on ABC's "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition."

The family friendly forum is having its best development year, with four of its financed scripts making it to broadcast networks. Those include "Everybody Hates Chris," ABC's "Commander in Chief," the WB's "Related," and the midseason CBS sitcom "The New Adventures of Old Christine."

Congressional criticism
In a congressional hearing Tuesday, some senators pounced on TV programming that they said promotes sexuality, explicit content and pornography. They pointed mostly to cable TV shows, not broadcast programming, and said that government limits could be the answer because the entertainment industry isn't policing itself well enough.

The discussion has centered on whether consumers should be able to pick and choose channels a la carte or if cable companies should be forced to offer a family-friendly tier. There's also been talk of Congress stepping in to give the Federal Communications Commission the muscle to act on violence and indecency complaints. Another hearing is scheduled within weeks.

Industry watchers said that there is indeed a new definition of what's appropriate for family viewing and that parents should be the ones deciding what's allowed in their homes.

"'Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood' in prime time is not going to fly," said Shari Anne Brill, VP-director of programming at media buying firm Carat USA. "The whole reason the Family Friendly Programming Forum was established was to create more shows that families could watch together. And that's happened. It's not about having the least objectionable programming, but about quality shows that would attract viewers."

The Seventh Annual Family Television Awards will air Dec. 11 on the WB.

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