The portrayal of families on many of television's prime-time situation comedies is almost as unrealistic as it was three decades ago, a new study has concluded.
"Hollywood has largely failed to grapple with the important issues of people's lives," the National Commission on Working Women said in a report called "Prime Time Kids," an analysis of children and families on television.
The group based its study on 15 situation comedies and eight dramas with children as characters, monitoring them for five weeks in June and July to see if they reflected the concerns of the country's 20 million working mothers. "Those reflections were virtually non-existent," the study concluded.
The report noted that almost all real families with working parents depend on some form of child care and many families are struggling to make ends meet--particularly those headed by single women.
However, no single mothers on television live in poverty or have economic problems, the report said; no children lack essentials or extras; serious race and sex discrimination don't exist; bigotry is usually overcome by the end of the show and young children are so self-reliant that they don't need child care--or the care is automatically provided by loving relatives or live-in help.
"One could argue that . . . this escape is a relief from the reality of low wages, poor child care and great fatigue," the report says. "However, this fantasy world, where viewers see virtually no reflection of themselves, is also discouraging and vapid. . . . "
Equally important, the report contends, is that the programs help shape a false impression of American society.