The unfulfilled demand for a TV "family hour" represents the biggest missed opportunity in Hollywood today.
That was the major message put forth by the Association of National Advertisers Tuesday, as the trade organization made up of the 40 biggest advertisers in the U.S. hosted it’s fifth annual Alliance for Family Entertainment Symposium.
The response from top TV writers and executives on hand for three separate panels at the Paley Center event: Like a lot of things in the modern, fragmented TV business, a family hour might be a thing of the past, a victim of DVR usage and platform dispersion.
"The experience of a nuclear family sitting around in the same place at the same time might be a throwback," said Ali LeRoi, executive producer of the CW comedy "Everybody Hates Chris," speaking on a broad-ranging TV writers panel that only intermittently addressed the ANA’s family-friendly topic.
"I think the real question is, are kids watching shows that are (really) appropriate for adults?" added "Lost" co-creator Damon Lindelof. "I know I don’t want to watch "The Hills."
According to Paul Lee, president of ABC Family, his network’s biggest hit, "The Secret Life of the American Teenager," represents a new model in which family-targeted shows are consumed in different ways by family members."
"Since it’s online and on iTunes, ‘Secret Life of the American Teenager’ is watched by parents and their kids, but not at the same time and not in the same place."
For her part, CW entertainment president Dawn Ostroff said the goal stated in the ANA’s symposium introduction Tuesday — develop more shows like "The Cosby Show" — is unrealistic in this era.
"Since we target women 18-34, family can take on so many things," Ostroff said.
"(Divorce-themes) shows like "The New Adventures of Old Christine" and "Gary Unmarried" merely reflect a different family dynamic," added CBS entertainment president Nina Tassler.
Fox Broadcasting entertainment president Kevin Reilly, meanwhile, noted that "The Simpsons" — the scourge of conservative watchdog groups like the Parents Television Council in years past — is now considered by many to be family friendly.
"That show has done more to influence the American family than any other show on television," agreed his ABC counterpart, Stephen McPherson.
For their part, ANA-affiliated advertisers don’t seem to be buying into the notion that the networks are simply reflecting a new vision of the American family that’s moved past "The Cosbys."
On Tuesday, the organization announced the creation of a fund to support the Humanitas screenwriting group in the creation of family-friendly fare.
"We took a look around and said, maybe we need to be proactive,"said ANA exec VP Barbara Bacci Mirque. "Maybe we need to go to the source."