The Walking Dead

Scott Garfield/TWD Productions LLC

How can The Walking Dead get away with a TV-14 rating? The gore alone should give it a TV-MA. Am I becoming an old fuddy-duddy?
Robert P., via Facebook

Oh come on. Just what is so family-unfriendly about a naked female torso dragging itself through the woods before finally getting shot in the head by a lawman whose horse is about to get disemboweled alive by a pack of subhuman cannibals?

Yes. For the record, you are a fuddy-duddy.

But you're not alone:

First, however, you should know a few things about TV ratings.

Unlike the movie industry, which subjects itself to the whims of the Motion Picture Association of America, TV networks essentially police themselves.

That's right: It's the network execs who get to determine whether a show has "intense violence" (which translates into a TV-14 rating) or "graphic violence" (which merits a TV-MA.) Ditto with "strong coarse language" (14) vs. "crude indecent language (MA).

"It's the networks deciding for themselves what they should be rated," says Melissa Henson of the Parents Television Council.

Not that the suits are all that keen on explaining those decisions. In a cryptic statement, the network behind The Walking Dead told me only that "AMC follows the established TV Parental Guidelines."

Well, yes, every network pretty much does for every show. But why 14 and not MA? AMC doesn't, apparently, want to go there.

Here's a possible reason for that reticence, courtesy of Henson.

"I would suspect ad revenue," she says. "The network might be fearful of scaring off potential sponsors with an MA rating."

A TV-14 rating? Not so scary for a sponsor.

"Ninety-eight percent of TV programming is either PG or 14," Henson explains.

Maybe we just need a whole new category: TV-Innards.

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