Naked rockets and TV ratings

Why does the Science Channel's educational and entertaining television program Wild and Weird Rockets, which I watched with great delight last night (recorded earlier), warrant a "TV-MA" rating?

I don't get it. Unless science, ingenuity and fun are only for "mature audiances" shouldn't Wild and Weird Rockets -- if it must carry a rating at all -- get a "TV-PG"? I see where parental guidance would be recommended since the show depicts the use of things inherently dangerous for youngsters, such as power tools and propellants. (Come to think of it, I could have used some grownup supervision myself.)

Better yet, how about someone on hand to explain the rocket equation? Alas, most adults can't do that.

Under the
television rating system, "TV-MA" denotes a program that "is not intended and should not be viewed by audiences under the age of 17. The program may contain extreme graphic violence, strong profanity, overt sexual dialog and/or explicit sexual acts."

Extreme graphic violence? Strong profanity? Explicit sex acts? Gosh, I did not see any of that yucky grownup stuff. Far from it. The show depicts a group of dedicated, innovative and fun-loving hobbyists who gather in Kansas for an annual amateur competition to launch some supercool, lovingly hand-built rockets. Because they can. And they're happy to show off the technology and how it's all done, too. (Hey, sometimes the good ol' Army of Davids just wants to have fun with their slingshots. ;) So? What's not for kids?

OK, extreme graphic explicit rocketry can be titillating. And phallic symbolism associated with rockets aside, the hobbyists do appear quite ga-ga over their sleek flying machines. Nothing unsexy about 'em. And no, rocket games are not for everyone. But a writer should have a fetish about books. An astronomer should be enamored of the stars. So...rocket lust? Maybe that accounts for the TV-MA rating.

And yes, the competition takes place in the state of Kansas, where it seems some school districts would pin a "TV-MA" warning on a high school biology video. (And indeed, who would argue that evolution is not even sexier than rocketeering?)

What else could it be? I had to step away during the second half of the program -- did Janet Jackson entertain between launches? (If she did, I'm sure not even the FCC would have noticed. Who could have taken their eyes off such gorgeous rockets?)

Some might wonder if this is just another case of post-Sept 11 misapplication of security concerns, along the lines of the feds classifying the popular propellant for solid-propulsion model rockets as an "explosive" (see,
Rocket Propellant Case Goes Boom).

Well at least some things on the Science Channel, like
Voyage to the Planets and Beyond, do get a family friendly "TV-G." (Shh. Don't tell the censors you need rockets to get to the planets.)

In the end, some would suggest the real obscenity is shielding kids from science.

Never mind. TV-MA rating or no, I would not have hesitated to watch the show, or anything else on the Science Channel, with my 7-year old niece. Besides, she's better at making the popcorn. (And if I ask nicely, she'll even explain to me how the microwave works.)

(Speaking of which, have you seen the
Food Network lately? Mmm . . . Sugar Rush, Boy Meets Grill, Sara's Secrets ... now that's what I call TV-MA.)

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