Spielberg calls for responsible TV

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Steven Spielberg urged TV networks to be mindful of what they show on the air because of the effect it might have on children, and said programs like CSI and Heroes were too gruesome.

"Today we are needing to be as responsible as we can possibly be, not just thinking of our own children but our friends' and neighbors' children," Spielberg told an audience Monday at the International Emmys board of directors meeting here.

Spielberg decried on-air promotions for television shows like CSI: Crime Scene Investigation that showed "blood and people being dissected." He also said that when his favorite TV show of the new season, NBC's Heroes, showed someone cut in half in the 9 p.m. hour, he sent his younger children out of the room.

"I'm a parent who is very concerned," he said.

Spielberg said that the TV landscape was much more "homogenized" 20 years ago, even seven or eight years ago. One of his shows, ER, wouldn't have been on the air 20 years ago because of its graphic depictions.

Two of Spielberg's movies, Schindler's List and Saving Private Ryan, have generated controversy during their television airings with uncut language and graphic depictions. But Spielberg has also made a famous edit to the DVD release of E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, where a government agent wielded a gun in the original film but held a walkie-talkie in the DVD.

In a free-ranging hour of interview with former NBC News correspondent Garrick Utley and questions from the audience, Spielberg said iPod video may be all the rage, but count his films out from being tailored to fit the small screen.

"That's one medium where I have to draw the line," he said. "We'll shoot for television and the movies and let there be a wide gap" between that and the small three-inch screen. He also said that he felt that people are social animals who will choose to go out to a movie rather than watch a show on widescreen.

"I don't think movie theaters will ever go away," Spielberg said.

But the producer-director who got his start in TV directing Joan Crawford for a 1969 episode of Rod Serling's Night Gallery isn't lacking for work on screens of any kind. He's developing a 10- or 11-hour miniseries about the US war against Japan in the Pacific Theatre during World War II, part of the 20 percent of his time that he estimated he worked on TV projects compared with 80 percent for films.

He called working on miniseries "the most fun I have" and especially liked the ability to develop characters. He pointed to HBO's Band of Brothers, which developed characters over hours rather than the eight to 10 minutes that he said was available in a two-hour feature film.

Another project is On the Lot, a Mark Burnett-Spielberg TV series that will choose one of 16 aspiring filmmakers for a development deal with DreamWorks, Spielberg's studio. It will air on Fox. And of course there's another film coming in the Indiana Jones series, which Spielberg was relatively mum about.

"There's still life in the series," Spielberg said.

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