Spielberg calls for responsible TV

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NEW YORK -- Steven Spielberg urged TV networks to be mindful of what they show on the air because of the effect it might have on children.

"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 his favorite TV show of the new season, NBC's "Heroes," showed someone cut in half in the 9 p.m. hour that caused him to send 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 and then 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 tailoring his films 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 3-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," Speilberg 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 U.S. war against Japan in the Pacific Theatre during World War II, part of the 20% of his time that he estimated he worked on TV projects compared with 80% 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-Speilberg 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.

Spielberg also said he was happy with the direction DreamWorks was taking under Viacom, which bought the company about a year ago for $1.6 billion. He said DreamWorks chief Stacy Snider is "doing a wonderful job" and said that he wouldn't have sold the company to Viacom if it wasn't the right thing for the company and its investors.

"Paramount treats us as we like to see ourselves, as an independent film company," Spielberg said.
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