Was TNG considered a "family tv show" at the time? And anyway, what does "family tv show" mean?

Discussion in 'Star Trek: The Next Generation' started by Skipper, Apr 2, 2024.

  1. Herbert

    Herbert Commodore Commodore

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    Given the rapid advances only recent years towards acceptance (we still have a long way to go but it's better now) I think even 2005 was too soon.
     
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  2. Skipper

    Skipper Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    This is a list of dramatic tv shows of the early 2000s with LGBT characters.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_...eries_with_LGBT_characters:_1960s–2000s#2000s
    If you add sitcoms you have a lot more.
    And Battlestar Galactica (which aired alongside Enterprise) had LBGT characters.

    2005 was too early for exactly who?

    By the way, exactly 8 days after the last episode of Enterprise this character appeared in Doctor Who.

    [​IMG]
     
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  3. BillJ

    BillJ The King of Kings Premium Member

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    You simply don’t understand the US of the time.
     
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  4. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Which is a well-established fact by this point, so it's bizarre that people keep trying to rationalize it as a function of the broader climate.


    When DS9: "Rejoined" featured a same-sex kiss, some syndication markets refused to show the episode, while others cut out the scene by going to commercial early. In my local market, an episode of War of the Worlds: The Series featuring a simulated sex scene that was very racy for the time was pre-empted. But in both cases, they showed the rest of the series.


    God, no, TOS was not! Good grief, it astonishes me how much people today have forgotten how much TOS pushed the boundaries of its day. That's been part of its defining reputation for ages, that it was the forward-looking show that broke new ground in social justice and inclusion. That reputation has been somewhat exaggerated -- there were other shows at the time that did a better job of including female leads or actors of color -- but TOS was still relatively ahead of the pack in those regards. It was certainly exceptional among SFTV shows of the time in being approached as an intelligent adult drama instead of a kids' show. And it pushed the limits of what was acceptable in the depiction of skin and sexuality. Yes, in some ways it failed to transcend the attitudes and conventions of its day, but in many ways it was exceptional.

    I mean, good grief, why do you think Star Trek became so huge that we're still talking about it today on a BBS named after it, while none of its contemporaries in SFTV had remotely near the same impact? The whole reason this board, this fandom exists is that Star Trek was much, much more than a typical product of its period.

    And that is exactly, exactly why Trek fans in 1987-2005 were continuously disappointed at the new shows' failure to include gay/lesbian characters and storylines in the same way that it had been inclusive of women and people of color at a time when many contemporary shows considered that "too soon." Fans were asking Roddenberry about gay inclusion before TNG even premiered, and he promised at the time that gay people would not be invisible in Trek -- but that promise was broken due to homophobes like Roddenberry's lawyer Leonard Maizlish who imposed undue influence on the show due to Roddenberry's failing health. That's a key part of the reason David Gerrold, one of the co-creators of TNG, was driven out of the staff so early in season 1. TNG was always well behind the curve on gay inclusion compared to the rest of TV, and we all knew it at the time.
     
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  5. Oddish

    Oddish Admiral Admiral

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    Only way to know would be to get a straight answer from Rick Berman, but he pretty much waffled when asked. :shrug:
     
  6. Skipper

    Skipper Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Well, he's not stupid. He knows very well that he cannot answer "I didn't show gay people because they disgust me and deserve to burn forever in the flames of hell". Even in the 80s you couldn't be blatantly homophobic in Hollywood.

    So you always had very bizarre interviews where he said things like "We're looking for the right opportunity. A gay character needs to be introduced with a proper storyline, otherwise we would be disrespecting the LBGT community. That's why we never show same-sex people holding hands in the Ten-Forward. Out of respect."

    As if gays were a mysterious mythological being and you needed a 5-part saga to explain their existence to your viewers.

    To put things in perspective, we can see Discovery managed to untie this inextricable Gordian knot, this dead-end labyrinth, the elusive white whale.

    [​IMG]
     
  7. Skipper

    Skipper Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I repost here the most straight answer he gave on the subject.

    Why were there no gay characters on TNG, DS9, Voyager or Enterprise? Was that your decision or the studio’s?

    Berman: It was not the studio’s decision. I know that when Gene (Roddenberry) was alive he was very ambiguous about the idea of a gay character or gay characters on the show. He felt it was the right thing to do, but never quite had any idea of how he was going to do it. As Michael Piller had said many times, the idea of seeing two men or two women in Ten-Forward holding hands was not really going to be an effective way of dealing with it. So Gene basically didn’t do anything about it, and then when Michael and I were involved with the concepts of the stories on the show, we just felt it would be better to deal with concepts of prejudice against homosexuality and topics like AIDS metaphorically, in ways other than human gays on board the ship. So we developed a number of different stories that dealt with same-sex relationships, that dealt with metaphorical diseases that were similar to AIDS. But they were all done in alien fashion to try to get people to think about these things as opposed to just hitting it right on the head, which would be having a gay character on the ship. It’s something that Michael and I discussed. It’s something that Brannon Braga and I discussed, that Jeri Taylor and I discussed, and we never really got around to coming up with a way of just adding a gay character. So we tried to deal with it in a more abstract science-fiction way.


    Even he admits that the lack of LGBT characters was not due to studio interference but solely his decision.
     
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  8. somebuddyX

    somebuddyX Commodore Commodore

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    I don't buy that Berman was a homophobe. I just think he didn't care one way or the other about representation. It wasn't on his or any of the writers radar. I think he was all about maintaining status quo. Nothing about his tenure was pushing boundaries, except when they were forced to innovate for Enterprise Season 3 and tried their season long arc, four years after DS9 had pretty much already done it. Ron Moore has said how it wasn't a priority, there was no champion for it so no one tried. If anyone, I'd think it was Ira who would have been the one to push it through on the sly and even he only did the Jadzia "Rejoined" episode as allegory. Even when Ron had the chance running his own show BSG he pushed it off into webisodes with Gaeta and Hoshi and I'd still consider him progressive. Where were Michael Piller or Jeri Taylor or Brannon Braga or Kenneth Biller on this?
     
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  9. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Except that's basically how most modern shows do deal with it -- just by presenting it matter-of-factly as part of everyday life and not pretending it's some big issue. It's not something that has to be "dealt with," it's just a part of reality that it's dishonest to ignore.

    I mean, TOS never had to do a story "dealing with" why there was a black woman with officer's rank on the bridge of a starship, or why Americans and Russians were working together peacefully. It just presented it matter-of-factly as a fait accompli that future society had overcome present-day prejudices and tensions. The fact that it wasn't an issue was the message. So the answer was already there in front of Berman and Piller.

    And Trek got it right once, in DS9: "Rejoined." When Kira was confused about why Jadzia Dax couldn't reunite with her former host's wife, the dialogue just took it for granted that the fact that they were the same gender now was a complete non-issue. It didn't even occur to Kira to bring it up. That's how they should've done it the rest of the time.
     
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  10. Skipper

    Skipper Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I'm not convinced about it. It's like saying that someone doesn't care about black representation or woman representation so black people or women don't appear in his show. This doesn't mean being "indifferent" or "neutral" on the subject. It means actively denying visibility to people who exist because own particular beliefs.

    And Berman was well aware of the matter. Fans asked him at conventions. Interviewers asked him. The actors themselves asked him. And how did he respond? Evasively if not outright lying (see response to Mulgrew). He doesn't really strike me as someone who simply doesn't care. But someone who does everything to ensure that it couldn't happen in 18 years and 624 episodes. Because, you know, they were too busy doing "Sub Rosa" or "Threshold".
     
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  11. valkyrie013

    valkyrie013 Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Maybe in TOS, or Tng S1, but after that, Berman and company found a good rut to be in and didn't like to get out of that rut, as it was making them money, and didn't want to upset the apple cart as it were.. DS9 was an outlier as they were pretty much left alone to do what they wanted in general. but when Voyager and Enterprise came along, more of the same old. Why it eventually crashed and burned.

    As for it being a "Family Show" as I was 8 a the time it started, and watched old VHS of Tos way before that, YES Trek is a family show. You can sit your 6-7 year old down infront of the TV and not worry about them being exposed to to much sex violence etc. Thundercats was more violent usually.
    Why I've complained about the recent Kurtzman Era pushing language, gore, and sex a bit to much, as it is to me STILL a family show.

    As fore LGBT representation, back then it would have been Token representation, nothing like it is now, maybe even worse as sterotypical "Gay" character so maybe dodged a buliet in some way.
     
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  12. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Yes, this, exactly. Fans were pushing for inclusion before the show even premiered, and they never stopped. If the person in control had truly been neutral on the issue, he would've had no resistance to giving the fans what they were consistently asking for. Instead, he relentlessly resisted it for 18 years while the rest of the television landscape around him evolved to be more inclusive. Neutrality is not so unyielding.
     
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  13. MrPicard

    MrPicard Jean-Luc's Loving Husband Fleet Captain

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    How was 1987 "not the time for a gay character yet"? Dynasty did it in 1981/1982 with this downright revolutionary scene for its time (I realize that things weren't always this good on the show, but still).



    Maybe it doesn't classify as a "family show" in the broadest sense, given that the target audience seems to have been mostly middle-aged and older women, but still. This was on American TV. You can't tell me TNG couldn't have done something similar if a certain someone in charge had wanted to. (It would have had to adapt things into the 24th century of course but still.) It could be done. All you needed was someone in charge who was supportive of the idea. Rick Berman was simply NOT supportive. Despite being a "family show", TNG had all kinds of references to ongoing things in society, just like Trek has always had. But somehow a gay character was "not possible"? I don't buy it. I don't buy Berman's evasiveness. Part of me wishes he'd just simply admit it already that he simply didn't WANT a gay character on any of his Trek shows. That would at least be honest.

    On the other hand, "if they had had a gay character they would have butchered things" is a GOOD point to make. I look at their half-hearted and often downright offensive attempts to tackle the subject in "The Outcast" and "The Host" and... shudder. Still tho. It's like it is with Steven Carrington on Dynasty - what was primarily important was the representation itself. You can - and will - find a lot of flaws with the way the show portrayed him, such as only allowing him to be gay when the plot allowed it and never even allowing him to kiss his boyfriend of the moment, but still. The fact that he was THERE did SO much for representation. Never underestimate this. The show still has a large following of gay men who all say the same: "Representation wasn't perfect by today's standards, far from it, but I saw myself on TV, and this gave me comfort".

    Imagine what a wonderful message a show like TNG could have sent with a gay character: "I saw myself on TV on a show about the far future, it tells me that things may be rough right now but one day they will be okay for us".
     
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  14. Quantum21

    Quantum21 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    It was always a family show. A mature discussion about sexual topics can be had by families, in fact isn't that the preferred yet often ignored way to do things?

    Roddenberry's sexual topics were a mixed bag. While I agree with his assertions that the US in particular has too many sexual hang ups, the execution of those topics In TNG did not often come off well. Some of the gender issues were out of date by the time the show aired. Gene himself may have been out of touch.
     
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  15. Skipper

    Skipper Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I absolutely agree with you, but it seems you couldn't say gay in a family tv show between 1987 and 1994... :shrug: (But you could say "rape gangs!", which I guess led to some interesting conversations between 7 year olds watching TNG and their parents... )
     
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  16. Skipper

    Skipper Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I repost this:

    I remember an anecdote about "Rejoining" (I don't if it's true but it is absolutely plausible, given Americans' attitude towards sex and violence).
    Some assistant answered the phone to a high-ranking producer who complained that kissing between two women had made it impossible for his 11-year-old son to watch Star Trek. The assistant asked him if there would have been the same problem if it had been a woman killing another woman. The producer replied that obviously there was no problem in this case. The assistant then replied that perhaps the problem was not the kiss between the two women, but the education his children were receiving.
     
  17. Oddish

    Oddish Admiral Admiral

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    The way I remember it, it was basically a couple of guys wearing matching pajamas and brushing their teeth.

    That's actually kind of funny... it's putting out all these macho, testosterone laced action movies like "Tango and Cash", where two guys high fiving is a big deal, but behind the scenes...

    That's par for the course for him.

    To hear Kate Mulgrew tell of it, she was doing just that.

    I think that "Rejoined" was a "test the waters" type thing... have a same-sex kiss on the non-flagship show, see what the reaction is, go from there.

    Especially ENT. When the show is supposed to be set 200 years in the past and you're essentially doing the same stuff you did before, there's a problem.
     
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  18. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    I'd say Dynasty was anything but a family show. It was a nighttime soap opera known for its racy subject matter (by the standards of the time).


    I still don't get why people are assuming that the question "Was TNG considered a 'family show' at the time?" has been answered in the affirmative. I don't think it was, at least not unambiguously. It dialed down the raciness after the first season, but otherwise was approached as an adult drama. It went for fairly graphic alien gore in the climax of "Conspiracy," which generated controversy at the time because it was seen as unexpectedly intense for TNG, but the show still went there. And the intensity of the torture scenes in "Chain of Command" was well beyond anything you'd see in a family show.

    A family show, by 1970s-80s standards, is something fairly light, wholesome, and kid-friendly, avoiding sex and violence and dark themes -- something like the '70s Wonder Woman or Buck Rogers or The Greatest American Hero or Quantum Leap. The SF/fantasy shows of the era were usually family shows, since the culture was prejudiced to see science fiction as lightweight kid stuff. What always set Star Trek apart, both in the TOS era and the TNG era, was how much more sophisticated and adult it was than its contemporaries. If it was seen as a family show, it was only because that was the stereotype imposed on all SFTV.


    Well-said. It would've had the same impact that seeing Uhura had for Whoopi Goldberg and many like her.


    No, I think it's more just that Berman let Ira Steven Behr do what he wanted with DS9 because Berman was busy with VGR and the movies. DS9 was the overlooked show, which gave it more leeway to take chances. I also heard it alleged once that Berman found Behr physically intimidating (he's a big guy) and was afraid to say no to him, but that's anecdotal.
     
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  19. Oddish

    Oddish Admiral Admiral

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    They needed someone like that on Voyager.
     
  20. MrPicard

    MrPicard Jean-Luc's Loving Husband Fleet Captain

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    It's not that things have changed much today. I saw a LOT of people complaining about a m/m kiss on The Walking Dead. "I can't watch this show with my kids anymore now!" A show where people and/or zombies are often killed in the most brutal manners available and they let their kids watch this without hesitation but then get outraged about the kids seeing two men kissing on the same show. You can't make this up. :shifty: