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'90210' complaints add to buzz for CW

September 06, 2008|Meg James

The Parent's Television Council is trying to ground the CW television network by encouraging advertisers to boycott CW shows because of a scene in the opening segment of its newest hit, "90210."

But so far it looks like the council has only played into CW's marketing hands.

Within hours of CW's highly rated premiere of the drama about spoiled and precocious kids in Beverly Hills, the watchdog group lodged a complaint.

"The CW Network has openly, wantonly and eagerly violated every business tenet of the broadcast industry. They shocked viewers during the family hour by depicting high school children engaged in oral sex in their car," said the council's president, Tim Winter. "It's such a sucker punch to viewers and a lot of families. No one tuned in to '90210' thinking, 'Hey, maybe I will get to see [oral sex].' "

The scene shows a boy sitting in a car and then a girl's head rising.

The council suggested that CW duped advertisers by withholding advance copies of the pilot and that it directed the show's producers to include the suggestive scene in the 8 p.m. show.

A CW statement denied both charges. "For the record, '90210' was screened in advance of broadcast through the customary advertiser screening service. In addition, the suggestion that we edited controversial material into the show at the last minute is as ridiculous as it is inaccurate."

This isn't the council's first tangle with CW, a joint venture of Warner Bros. and CBS Corp. Sexually provocative magazine ads and billboards for the network's show "Gossip Girl" have also left the group fuming. The council calls the ads "smutty." Winter contends that, instead of targeting its core demographic group of 18-to-34-year-olds, CW is reaching out to teenagers and preteens with slogans such as "Every Parent's Nightmare," which Winter says particularly resonates with teens who live at home.

But the council appears to have handed CW a marketing gift with a ribbon. CW has grabbed the council's criticism and turned it into an endorsement. One ad for "Gossip Girl" features two teenagers in bed under the headline: "Mind-blowingly inappropriate" -- a quote that came from the Parents Television Council.

Just like parents, CW knows if you want kids to watch something, tell them it's off limits.

-- Meg James



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