A filmmaker friend of mine once conducted an informal screen-writing workshop for a few friends of ours, myself included. Such workshops, large or small, formal or informal, are peppered with adages and general sweeping statements that, to an extent, reflect the general state of the cinematic industries of film and TV. The first and most important rule for the medium of visual storytelling was to "show, not tell", to let the images speak for themselves. To let the images be part of the narrative, rather than just explanatory pictures that accompany a piece of script. .
This stuck with me long after the workshops had ended. The most effective TV shows and movies do not just show, not tell. The most effective ones do both. That is why when programmers complain that violence is necessary for story telling, I feel that they are either poor storytellers or lying. Apart from purposeful documentaries covering specifically violent issues (that too, not just for the violence factor, but for the overriding humanity of those issues), there is no actual reason for abject violence to be shown on TV. There is a bit more leeway for the cinema because there exists a rating system that is enforceable due to the nature of the medium (where one has to go to a specific place to watch something, hence, like bars and clubs, underage patrons can be suitably kept out of the movie). .
Critics since the 1970's have been worried about the affects of exposure to violence on TV. There has been constant monitoring of the issue since after the Surgeon General's first groundbreaking yet inconclusive study. The latest such study being the experiment conducted by psychologists L. Rowell Huesmann and colleagues at the University of Michigan's Institute of Social Research. .
As reported in the March issue of the journal Developmental Psychology, the study showed that both boys and girls who had watched a lot of violence on television have "a heightened risk of aggressive adult behavior including spouse abuse and criminal offenses, no matter how they act in childhood" .