The most recent FCC rulings on broadcast indecency caused the WB to edit a new show. The NY Times reports: WB Censors Its Own Drama for Fear of F.C.C. Fines
The pilot episode of “The Bedford Diaries,” which concerns a group of college students attending a class on human sexuality, had already been accepted by WB’s standards department. After the F.C.C. decision last week to issue millions of dollars in fines against broadcast stations, the network’s chairman, Garth Ancier, contacted Mr. Fontana and asked him to edit a number of specific scenes out of the show, including one that depicted two girls in a bar kissing on a dare and another of a girl unbuttoning her jeans.
The network’s standards and practices department previously cleared the show to air, believing that it would not run afoul of the indecency regulations.
Even if networks do not edit shows because of indecency regulations often, the constraints imposed by the indecency framework do affect the creative content of television. In some cases, these constraints compel writers to find alternative means of expression.
Battlestar Galactica uses the made-up word “frack” as an all-purpose expletive. The super-cheesy original Battlestar Galactica series, with Lorne Greene, invented the fracking expletive (along with, um, especially creative measures for time and currency.) As a result, though, dialogue on Galactica has its own particular tone and rhythm. If it used the normal English equivalents, the show might sound more like The Sopranos, just with the Jersey accents toned down a bit. Salon.com’s Video Dog has a compilation of clips incorporating the word: Motherfracker!
In another way, writers can build on the fact that networks will bleep the worst language. In a first-season episode of Arrested Development, Bringing Up Buster, the writers sent Buster on a 10-second long tirade, where we hear “cause I’m an uptight…[bleeeeeeeeep]…Buster…[bleeeeeeeep]… you old horny slut!” The video shows only the other characters’ (Michael, GOB and Lindsay) horrified reactions. The result is more offensive than anything the writers could think up, because those 10 seconds are filled with the foulest language each viewer can imagine, and that language may be different for each imagination.