Another role in the hay...

LOS ANGELES, May 25 (Reuters) - Hollywood is questioning its love affair with violence with two popular television shows deciding on Tuesday to rein in the fighting. "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," the popular TV show about a high school vampire hunter, said it will postpone showing its season finale -- which has a monster attacking students -- on Tuesday night out of sympathy for families devastated by violent school rampages in Georgia and Colorado.

Meanwhile, the distributors of one of TV's most popular programs -- the "Jerry Springer Show" -- said it has become disenchanted with guests talking with their fists and vowed that the "talk show" will no longer contain violence. A spokeswoman for Studios USA, the program's distributor, said, "We will produce and distribute a program that we feel is responsible -- no violence, physical confrontation or profanity ... We will inform stations that we are not providing any Jerry Springer program if these standards cannot be met."

Chalk up another two victims to creeping, post-Colorado paranoia, though both may well end up shooting themselves in the foot -- if that's not an unfortunate metaphor. To take Buffy first, it was inevitable that any program about a self-descibed "slayer" in a school would run into problems after the massacre at Columbine High. Though it was never taken off the air, they postponed one episode due to some dialogue, and have now done the same with the last episode of the current season. What is surprising is that this only took place at the very last minute: right up till the day, it was still being trailered. What suddenly happened to trigger it?

Slightly more worrying is the potential long-term implications. Despite the time it's shown in Britain (it's heavily cut for the 6:45 pm slot), it is avowedly not a show for kids. It is dark, gloomy and undeniably violent -- I saw the first part of the finale [tips hat in direction of Chris!] and it had an amazing fight between Buffy and Faith (rogue Gothette slayer) which was not far short of Hong Kong standard. But it covers things in a mature and reasoned manner: this is not the 'A-Team', where Mr.T machine-guns a car, which crashes, somersaults and burst into flames, but no-one gets hurt. Buffy depicts the results of violence and the traumas it causes too.

But this seems to be taboo nowadays. Yep: it's okay for an unfaithful, lying president to make war, but a modern fairy story like Buffy is a "bad role model". Next season I can see the show, which has spent its first three seasons getting better and better, petering out in safe, Disneyfied stories: Buffy Gets a Hangnail. Losing one of the most imaginative and inventive shows on television would be a pity.

Similarly, albeit in a different way, with Jerry Springer. Already, we've seen "I'm Proud to be a Prostitute" replaced with "Street Kids Update" and other topics indistinguishable from Oprah, Leeza, Ricki or the host of tedious clones which clutter up the American airwaves. Jerry Springer is the ONLY chat show I have ever made ANY effort to watch, and if the energy and originality which made it so are removed, in favour of the same pabulum that you get everywhere else, why bother? In this case, however, market forces *will* win -- audiences will drop, and if Jerry doesn't give people what they want, someone else will. And if TV doesn't give people their dose of catharis, who know what might happen? Watch out for pissed-off Buffyfans running amok. You heard it here first.

On a similar subject, a quick thought on Lawrence Dallaglio, lured by an reporter into admissions that he was a drug user and dealer. The points to notice are that said report was a) female, and b) attractive. Standard practice for any man faced with such a woman is to say whatever impresses her i.e. lie through your teeth in the hope of a shag. This applies double to rugby players, who tend towards the Neanderthal and unreconstructed end of our sex. Dallaglio is, in all likelihood, guilty of nothing more than being an idiot.

Note, however, the predictable bleating from predictable sources. I guess Messrs. Cunningham et al have forgotten who the biggest drug dealer in the country is: H.M.Government. Through taxes of alcohol and tobacco, they rake in amounts beyond the dreams of the biggest pusher, and the products they sanction kill many more too. As far as role models, I'd much rather have our youth influenced by Buffy, Jerry and Lawrence than Clinton and Blair.


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