Tag Archives: ABC

TV Shows and Sensitivity: How Should Television Address Difficult Topics?

In our divisive political world, television production teams are trying more and more to send their message and address controversial topics. Because, when done right, TV shows can get people talking, spark positive cultural change, and boost ratings. As with anything, there is a right and wrong way to tackle sensitive issues. If done wrong, this can lead to television shows receiving criticism, poor ratings, or possibly being pulled off the air or canceled.

TV Shows Different types of television networks have different levels of content regulation. The most regulated of the types of networks is the broadcast networks. These include channels such as ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox. Most of these networks’ shows, while they may address serious topics, still maintain the lighter tone that their networks establish.

Basic Cable channels are a step above broadcast networks, and they have a little more free range when it comes to dealing with more sensitive topics. Channels under this category include FX and AMC, which include more content for adults, compared to the content found on broadcast channels. Paid Cable networks and Streaming are the least regulated of the networks. These include cable channels like HBO and Showtime, and Streaming services like Netflix and Hulu.

In early 2018, Paramount Network, a basic cable network, planned to air a television remake of the 1989 cult classic film “Heathers.” The movie’s plot revolves around Veronica Sawyer, her love interest, Jason Dean (JD), and her so-called friend group “the Heathers.” The story involves Veronica and JD plotting the deaths of popular students at their school, depicting gun violence amongst students and bullying. While this sort of satire worked in the 1980s in a pre-Columbine world, taking on a story of this magnitude should be done so with caution. On top of the subject matter, Paramount cast the main antagonists (the Heathers) and minorities, including Heather Chandler as plus-sized, Heather Duke as gender-queer, and Heather Macnamara as black, which many interpreted as the producers villainizing these types of people. After months of delay due to several school shootings in 2018, Paramount decided to air nine episodes of “Heathers” on their network over the course of five days in October.

Netflix is a powerhouse when it comes to their original content. With executive producer Selena Gomez and based on a popular novel, “Thirteen Reasons Why” fit what makes Netflix Originals successful. After the initial release of the series, it received mixed reviews. Some said the show brought awareness to the affects of bullying and argued it was thought-provoking and would change how people think about their actions. Others felt it glorified suicide with the idea of creating these “tapes” for people that made life bad for them as a sort of revenge and punishment. The idea of leaving these tapes also sparked a meme in the online community, which did not help their cause. While season one was based on the book, season two, and the recently green-lit season three, are both original and continue where the first leaves off in a post-Hannah Baker world.

TV Shows

ABC is known for their more family-friendly content, as their parent company is media powerhouse Disney. “Black-ish” follows a successful black man in the suburbs and his middle-class family. The story portrays the life of a group of people that up until recently, was not portrayed on television. The show is considered a comedy, but does not shy away from sensitive topics, especially those relating to the black community, such as police brutality. The show also addressed the results of the 2016 election, which shocked many. Despite addressing divisive political topics, the ratings have remained good and this fall, the show entered its fifth season.

In all, it is not the severity of the topics that a television show chooses to talk about. Different shows may depict the same issue, one may do a good job and approach the topic from all angles and with sensitivity. Others, if done incorrectly, may result in controversy over their television show, which could result in various consequences, such as poor ratings, boycotts, or being canceled by the network. It is important to use common sense and do research before addressing a divisive issue. While it is great to get people talking about these important issues, if television series are going to use their voices to bring important ideas to the table, they need to do it the right way. How should television networks bring sensitive topics to light without offending audiences? Should television avoid tackling divisive topics all together? Do you think there are certain topics that should remain off-limits?

-Gabby Leitner

From First Kiss To First Kid: ABC Family Goes Freeform

On January 12, 2016, ABC Family officially became Freeform. This change came as quite the shock to some, and normally when a network is rebranding, it is because they are failing. But, this was not the case. Despite the rebranding and change of unmistakable name, that was announced early October of 2015, the same television shows would be aired. They will even keep their 25 Days of Christmas, Harry Potter Marathons, and Disney movie showings. Apparently this evolution of the network had been in the works for 10-12 years, according to network President, Tom Asheim, and the only thing left was to drop the name that the network had outgrown.

Free Form

So the big question is why change? ABC Family’s viewing demographic was changing and the main audience attracted was no longer those looking for the family-friendly show that the network had been so well known for. Over the past decade, the shows had been beginning to shift towards more teen and young adult content, which is part of the evolution that had been going on mentioned earlier. ABC Family decided to capitalize on the large group of millennials that make up a large part of television viewers in the country. The network’s core audience is viewers ages 14-34, which is an approximated 69 million people target audience. Can you say “Cha-ching”?

When rebranding, the network wanted to follow this huge market and keep up with the millennials as they grow older. They wanted for the network to move past this traditional family viewing and towards its target market of “Becomers”. These “Becomers” are people ages high school to thirty’s, who are asking themselves “Who am I becoming?” They decided to coin this stage of life the “Becoming” stage and those going through it “Becomers”. It is important for them to reiterate that this is a stage of life and not a generation, because they want to follow their viewers from their “first kiss” to their “first kid”.

The network had three main goals for the new name. They, first, wanted to really promote this idea if “Becomers” and the stage of life represented with Freeform. Second, they needed to capitalize on the crossing over and overlap from multiple platforms such as the many social media sites that content is discussed on or the multiple mediums and devices that viewers can use to access and watch Freeform content. The last goal for them was to really make the viewers feel something, and hopefully they would make them feel something positive, such as spark this feeling of “Be you”, “Be Bold”, “Find Yourself”, and so on. This really dives into the meaning behind the word “Freeform” and having no boundaries and making life your own.

Free Form2Of course, the biggest issue for the network was going to be brand awareness. For such a recognizable name to be changed to something completely new and unrelated is a big risk. They jumped on top of the marketing campaign right after the announcement in October and ran promotional ads heavily until January 12, especially through the 25 Days of Christmas that attracts a lot of viewers. They also pushed the social channels really hard with a hashtag to connect with millennials and a Gorilla marketing campaign that used fans’ user generated content the promote the name change for them. People are more involved than just watching the shows they love, they immerse themselves in the atmosphere and community of fans of the show through social media and networking sites by sharing opinions and favorites about the show. The fans were able to describe what the word “Freeform” meant to them to help express the representation behind the new name and what it stands for. One thing they really had to stress to people was that the stuff they loved on ABC Family would still be there. And so far, it looks like the transition has been very successful and well received by viewers.

Free Form3The last thing I found very interesting about the change is to look back and see exactly how much the channel has changed even over just the past ten years. This promo video from 2006 really promotes the family oriented shows and the feelings the occur in the shows, some of which in the video shown are Lincoln Heights, Wildfire, Beautiful People, Gilmore Girls, Fallen, and Kyle XY. This promo video previewing what Freeform will be showing in 2016 focuses more on independence and young adult storylines. Some of the shows in this video are Shadowhunters, The Fosters, Baby Daddy, Recovery Road, Young and Hungry and Pretty Little Liars. The content of the shows and the storylines have indeed evolved over the years as their core audience has changed. The shift is not something that will stop the network, because they will continue to roll with the punches, go with the flow, or you know…be #Freeform.

Ali Holtz