- The Washington Times - Friday, January 19, 2007

Television programming, say some culture critics, is better than ever — and I tend to agree. Less often remarked is that several popular TV shows are incredibly pessimistic about human nature.

I’ll mention two episodic dramas (both on CBS) that I watch fairly regularly: “Without a Trace” and “Cold Case.” The first, set in the New York metro area, is about FBI missing persons investigators, the latter about Philadelphia homicide detectives who reopen cases thought unsolvable.

Both dramas typically highlight the worst sorts of criminal depravity, especially those involving deviant sex and children. Often violently graphic, one could easily imagine these shows raising the ire of conservative-minded TV watchdogs in a more innocent age (like, 10 or 15 years ago).

In actuality, though, “Without a Trace” and “Cold Case” seem to confirm the worst fears of conservatives who claim generations of an over-permissive culture have created in our society a frighteningly evil criminal element. These shows say: Your children are not safe in their neighborhoods or at school. And those tragic accidents might not be so accidental after all.

I wonder what it says about us, the viewers, that we’re either blithely in agreement with these story worlds, or we just find it so darn entertaining.

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