Violent Action-Adventure Television Series Flourish Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

The amount of violence shown on prime-time action-adventure television increased to unprecedented levels, raising questions about possible effects on viewers. Violent shows came to be seen as inappropriate advertising venues for certain companies and agencies, who were often at odds with producers.

Summary of Event

In the early 1970’s, the three major American television networks, the American Broadcasting Company American Broadcasting Company (ABC), the National Broadcasting Company National Broadcasting Company (NBC), and the Columbia Broadcasting System Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS), established what was called the “family hour.” Family hour (television) Between 8:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. eastern and Pacific time, television programs were to be suited for family viewing. Before long, however, the networks tried to outdo one another by broadcasting more and more sensational shows, which became increasingly violent. In the 1975-1976 program season, the networks agreed to observe the family-hour restrictions more carefully, but that merely meant that violent shows were delayed until the hour’s end. After 9:00 p.m., violent shows dominated prime time, the period between 7:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. when numbers of viewers are typically largest. Television;violence [kw]Violent Action-Adventure Television Series Flourish (1975-1979) [kw]Action-Adventure Television Series Flourish, Violent (1975-1979) [kw]Television Series Flourish, Violent Action-Adventure (1975-1979) Television;violence [g]North America;1975-1979: Violent Action-Adventure Television Series Flourish[01840] [g]United States;1975-1979: Violent Action-Adventure Television Series Flourish[01840] [c]Radio and television;1975-1979: Violent Action-Adventure Television Series Flourish[01840] Silverman, Fred Spelling, Aaron Cannell, Stephen J.

By 1977, the television programs shown during prime time had been studied by numerous scholars and researchers. Violent television shows such as Kojak, Kojak (television program) Starsky and Hutch, Starsky and Hutch (television program) and The Rockford Files Rockford Files, The (television program) were bringing the major networks high ratings, and concern regarding the effects of viewing these programs became a major issue among parents, researchers, and television producers. As a result of such concerns, by the end of the decade, many violent shows had been replaced by subtler programs.

Most of the violent 1970’s programs were crime dramas, and most, including such shows as Mannix, Mannix (television program) Baretta, Baretta (television program) and Hawaii Five-O, Hawaii Five-O (television program) shared many characteristics. For example, most involved at least one eccentric, daring white male involved with private investigating or law enforcement. Such programs also often portrayed women as victims and violence as the means by which men protected women. Researchers noted numerous other features common to 1970’s crime dramas.

As the popularity of violent shows increased by the late 1970’s, so did the problems related to broadcasting them. Advertisers, for example, started to evaluate more closely the programs on which they chose to advertise. Violent shows came to be seen as inappropriate advertising venues for certain companies and agencies. Companies such as Best Foods and Samsonite avoided excessively violent programs when they chose their prime-time advertising slots. Evidence to support these decisions came when research began to show that violence on such programs as The Rookies Rookies, The (television program) and Starsky and Hutch was actually turning off consumers. One such study done by J. Walter Thompson, one of the largest advertising firms in the United States, revealed that 8 percent of the consumers surveyed had boycotted products advertised during violent shows and that 10 percent more had considered the idea.

Throughout the 1970’s, television sponsors, including such advertising heavyweights as Johnson & Johnson, Johnson & Johnson[Johnson and Johnson] continued monitoring prime-time programs, and some would pull their advertisements from shows that were perceived as excessively violent. Johnson & Johnson pulled advertisements from a total of twenty-four shows such as Kojak and Police Story Police Story (television program) during the height of prime-time violence. Surprisingly, however, all prime-time advertising spaces were sold during this controversial period.

The Federal Communications Commission Federal Communications Commission;television violence (FCC) attempted to regulate television violence by using a rating system, but the FCC’s efforts were not very effective. With the advertisers on one side and television producers on the other, the issue of how much violence would be tolerated seemed likely to become a question of censorship.

Televised violence was not restricted to prime-time action shows. At almost any time of day, the networks were showing some type of violence. Morning and afternoon programs such as cartoons, Westerns, and science-fiction series were also found to contain heavy doses of violence.

By the end of the decade, many viewers had grown tired of the round-the-clock violence, and prime time became less concentrated with violent programs. Numerous researchers had come to the conclusion that there was an excessive and dangerous amount of violence being shown on prime-time television, and the U.S. surgeon general stated that there was a clear causal relationship between the viewing of violence on television and aggressive behavior on the part of viewers.


The impact of television violence in the late 1970’s was widespread. Violence on prime-time shows affected other programs, television advertisers, and viewers. The impact on the producers of the programs and the advertisers was large enough to set them at odds; many producers believed that television did not make violence real enough, whereas many advertising agencies thought that televised violence was too real. Therefore, neither party was sure if they could dictate the other’s actions. The FCC became involved and created a violence rating system to keep producers and advertisers at ease, and the amount of televised violence decreased by 1980.

The television audience was also significantly affected by the violence shown on prime-time programs. Children were especially affected by the violence they observed. According to George Gerbner, Gerbner, George a University of Pennsylvania researcher, the average American child had viewed fifteen thousand hours of television by the age of eighteen and had witnessed eighteen thousand television murders and other violent acts. The number of weapons shown, the setting of the violence, and the male-to-female ratios on the shows were all factors directly related to audience impact. In a sample of seventy-three hours of 1977 prime-time shows, an average of almost nine weapons appeared each hour; handguns were the most common type of weapon shown. Hawaii Five-O was observed to have the greatest number of weapon appearances.

In a study sponsored by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, crime-drama programs were compared with Western movies, cartoons, and science-fiction series and were found to be more violent, more frightening, more disturbing, and more realistic than the other types of shows. In studies comparing American crime drama with British crime drama, the American shows were rated as more violent. The series Starsky and Hutch, which featured police partners fighting crime in a city setting, was rated as the most violent of all the action-adventure programs.

Another significant finding of the studies of violent programs was the ratio of males to females involved in violent acts. Studies showed that white males were more often shown involved in violent acts than were women or members of other ethnic groups. Depictions of male violence against females were rated more realistic and more frightening than portrayals of female violence against males. Typically, unmarried women, adolescents, and elderly women were portrayed as victims. Character portrayal was also a significant factor in the effect of television violence; in general, violence instigated by a good character was rated as less serious than violence caused by a bad character.

Moreover, violent television significantly affected the perception of law enforcement in the real world. Viewers tended to perceive the level of police involvement in day-to-day life to be higher than the actual level and also tended to overestimate the extent of violence and danger in the real world. Frequent television watchers believed that the incidence of violent crimes was higher than it in fact was and also perceived themselves as likely victims.

Another study sponsored by the U.S. Conference of Mayors showed that violence by American police was perceived as more violent and more frightening than violence by British police. In another study, viewers’ perceptions of television violence that depicted harmful consequences were different from perceptions of violent acts that showed no harm to the victims. Gerbner and other researchers studied the distinction between fantasy and reality and found that viewers’ perceptions of reality were distorted and tended to resemble the depictions on television rather than real life. Another interesting finding was that exposure to television violence may have resulted in less aggression among females. Evidence to support this theory was given by researchers who claimed that television acted as an outlet for aggression otherwise not socially acceptable for females.

Although research findings were often inconsistent and contradictory, the majority of studies agreed on one basic point: Television violence had a significant impact on viewers. Although violence would continue to be a major feature of many television shows, the amount of televised violence declined as the 1970’s ended, and most experts agreed that this was a good thing. Television;violence

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Barker, Martin, and Julian Petley, eds. Ill Effects: The Media Violence Debate. 2d ed. New York: Routledge, 2001. Examines the negative effects of the violence in television, the cinema, music, and the Internet. Essays discuss issues in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, and Europe.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Feshbach, Seymour, and Robert A. Singer. Television and Aggression. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1971. A good basis for understanding the prevalence of violence and aggression on television. Various studies show what genres of programs contained violence prior to 1971. All angles of arguments and theories are covered. Complete index.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Gentile, Douglas A., ed. Media Violence and Children: A Complete Guide for Parents and Professionals. Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 2003. Experts address the broad range of negative effects that media violence has on children.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Gunter, Barrie. Dimensions of Television Violence. Aldershot, Hampshire, England: Gower Press, 1985. An excellent source of information on violence in television for this time period. Wide variety of visual aids to research; bar graphs, tables, and charts are used throughout the text. A majority of studies compare British shows with American shows. Good index and complete reference list.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Higgins, Patricia B., and Marla W. Ray. Television’s Action Arsenal: Weapon Use in Prime Time. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Conference of Mayors, 1978. Individual studies of violent 1970’s programs. Does not discuss the effects of televised violence on viewers. Tables and figures appear with each study.

Relevance Programs Change Entertainment Standards

Silverman Rescues ABC Television’s Ratings

Decline of the Big Three Networks

Rise of Video and Computer Games

Hill Street Blues Defines Hard-Reality Television

Cable Television Challenges Network Television

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