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Fall TV season "looks up"; psychology prof considers appeal of spiritually oriented shows

September 30, 2003

"Joan of Arcadia," which airs Fridays on CBS, is just one in a slew of new TV shows (i.e. Still Life, Wonderfalls, Tru Calling, etc.) stressing spirituality. Even more interesting: A lot of the shows target a teen audience. It seems that network execs have decided God is the next big thing.

Dr. Patti Wilson, associate professor of psychology at Austin Peay, believes that spirituality shows targeting teens are en vogue for a variety of reasons. One, she admits, frightens her a bit.
September 30, 2003

"Joan of Arcadia," which airs Fridays on CBS, is just one in a slew of new TV shows (i.e. “Still Life,” “Wonderfalls,” “Tru Calling,” etc.) stressing spirituality. Even more interesting: A lot of the shows target a teen audience. It seems that network execs have decided God is the next big thing.

Dr. Patti Wilson, associate professor of psychology at Austin Peay, believes that “spirituality shows” targeting teens are en vogue for a variety of reasons. One, she admits, frightens her a bit.

“Television is having to portray parents discussing moral and ethical issues in everyday situations with their children, because 'real-life' parents are having difficulty engaging in these conversations themselves.”

For example, Wilson says that for more than five years, we've seen TV advertisements encouraging parents to discuss the consequences of life decisions regarding drug and alcohol use, racism, violence, smoking and pre-marital sex.

“The second reason for the rise in spiritual shows targeting teen audiences is a practical one,” she says. “Teens are interested in 'real-world issues,' and current real-world issues are intertwined with religion."

The violence of Sept. 11 and the war in Iraq are perfect examples, she says. "The root cause behind many of the nation's domestic and international issues is a misunderstanding of religious beliefs. Take, for example, anti-Muslim sentiments that arose in the nation after Sept. 11. Many people confuse religious beliefs with political ones.

Wilson says that in a time when the world is an increasingly confusing place, it's only sensible that teens would turn to spirituality to help understand the world. "It offers a belief that although current events may be unthinkable to the human mind, there is a divine reason behind their occurrence. When one can ‘let go and let God,' a sense of calm and peace is restored. In order for chaos to cease, we must have a reason to understand — and to believe.”
Rebecca Mackey