Stop bad TV before it starts

By Kevin Wilson

I need to have a chat with the Federal Communications Commission.
I know the FCC has been a little bit overworked lately with Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake, but I’ve got an idea that it really needs to start working on. I call it BTAP, or Bad Television Awareness and Prevention.
Too often, I’ll turn on the television and just see a show that doesn’t belong on my set for one reason or another. What BTAP would do, essentially, is set up ground rules that prevent a show with certain red flags from ever seeing the light of a broadcast day.
The next few paragraphs are part of my BTAP plan — a series of simple rules that could prevent many bad television experiences in the near future, with relevant examples:
1. To avoid confusion, no actor or actress shall begin a new television series as a character with glaring similarities to a character they previously played.
I’m not talking about spin-off shows like “Frasier” or the upcoming “Joey,” where a character from one series moves into a new situation. I’m talking about times like when Bill Cosby and Felicia Rashad played a married couple on the CBS show “Cosby,” only a few years after they’d played a different married couple on “The Cosby Show.”
The viewers took so long to realize they weren’t watching the Huxtables anymore that it took an extra few months to realize the show wasn’t funny.
2. Characters may not be replaced by different actors/actresses in the middle of a series. This is a common practice among television shows, because actors and actresses will leave a series for personal or professional reasons. In these cases, the character needs to go with them.
I know this would be a killer to soap operas, but I’m not counting them because they’re not real television shows. They just aren’t.
3. Age progression of characters must be consistent for all characters. I’m sick of watching a series to see the family have a new baby, then watch the next season as the baby is suddenly a 5-year-old with a healthy share of dialogue. Characters either age at the same rate, or not at all like the “Simpsons.”
4. Regardless of ratings, a show must be taken off the air when a reasonable person couldn’t believe the scenario. I know we’re watching fictional television, but it was a little creepy to watch the fifth season of “Head of the Class,” a show about an honors class in high school (you’d think an honors class would be smart enough to graduate in four years).
5. Miscellaneous violations will exist for shows, and two or more violations will result in a show’s cancellation. Such violations include, but are not limited to:
l arbitarily adding a child to boost ratings (”Cosby Show,” “Brady Bunch”);
l creating a character, then killing that character off in the same episode to teach the audience a valuable lesson about life (”Saved by the Bell”);
l cameo appearances by celebrities playing themselves in a show about regular people (”Brady Bunch”).
So you see, if my rules had been instituted decades ago, we would have never seen those final few years of “Brady Bunch,” and might have also been saved from those abysmal movies based on the show.
We could have also prevented the last two or three seasons of “Growing Pains,” when the producers apparently had a meeting and said, “You know what, if this show’s going to go down in flames, let’s make them white-hot flames. Let’s age the baby 5 years and add Leonardo DiCaprio to the cast!” I mean, this conversation had to happen, right?
Maybe the FCC isn’t going to go along with this, but BTAP is exactly what we need to ensure that bad TV does not go unpunished. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go. “Saved by the Bell: The College Years” is just about to start.

Kevin Wilson is managing editor of the Portales News-Tribune. He can be contacted at 356-4484, extension 32, or by e-mail: