Calling the Decency Police

During an ABC Q&A at Winter TV Press Tour 2007 featuring show runners on some of its scripted series, the subject of the network's Decency Police kept coming up.

"Desperate Housewives'" Marc Cherry said his strangest DP note came during production of the pilot, in which Eva Longoria's character has sex with her 17-year-old gardener. Looking at the post-sex scene, the DP said "does she have to smoke?"

"And I went, 'So, you're good with the statutory rape thing?'"

Jenny Bicks, from "Men in Trees" recalled one recent script in which "I had two 'asses' and one 'crap'."

"I was... told that I could trade an 'ass' for a 'crap' but I couldn't have two 'asses' and the 'crap'."

"This wasn't even the show," joked "Lost's" Damon Lindelof.

"This was last night at the bar," said Cherry.

Lindelof complained "you could say things on 'NYPD Blue' in 1991 that you can no longer say at 10 o'clock in 2007."

"Thank you Janet Jackson," Cherry added. (He forgot to thank Justin Timberlake.)

"The ambiguity of the FCC's position on what constitutes obscenity has really been difficult for all of us because it's made the Standards and Practices department ultra-cautious about risking fines. I think it's hindering us in our abilities to be as fully creative as we would like to be."

"You don't know what I had to go through to get the word 'douchy' in the pilot," "Ugly Betty's" Silvio Horta chimed in.

"Do you guys have the nipple problem?" Cherry asked his colleagues.

"I spend like $100,000 a week taking nipples out of my show because I've got a couple of actresses who refuse to wear bras, and the Standards and Practices go 'Can't see that.' ... then I'll turn on 'Friends' and it's a nipplefest."

By Nancy Kerr  |  January 15, 2007; 11:35 AM ET Winter 2007 TV Press Tour
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So let's see what happens to FOX, the Bush-friendly network, now that they ran a woman with a shirt that read "F--- da Eagles" for a full five seconds during the Saints game Saturday night. See if the pro-Republican network gets fined...

Posted by: bamagirlinVA | January 15, 2007 1:02 PM

Amazing the amount of money that gets spent pandering to a moral minority...

Oddly, the Bible itself is way more dirty than any of the daily issues these folks face. I don't see anyone trying to censor that though.

Posted by: Gentry | January 15, 2007 1:09 PM

TV should bring back Victorian decency:

1. They should say "limb" instead of "leg".

2. Love should use the language of flowers.

3. Bring back bathing machines. Think of the comic possibilities!

Posted by: Tomcat | January 15, 2007 1:15 PM

I sincerely hope everyone at the Libby trial is wearing a bra. And that Cheney doesn't tell Fitzgerald to "go f**k himself".

Posted by: Sparkles the Iguana | January 15, 2007 1:32 PM

What exactly are we protecting kids from? We let them see people getting killed in a thousand different ways, but they can't see the outline of a nipple under a shirt?

What stunning hypocrisy, and stupidity.

Posted by: Hillman | January 15, 2007 1:39 PM

Can't express how grateful I am for the nipple reduction on network TV. Nothing quite like tuning in the telly to "Friends" and getting an eyeful of Chandler sporting three nips...

Posted by: Thor | January 15, 2007 2:48 PM

Yeah, but who are the actresses refusing to wear bras?

Posted by: criss | January 15, 2007 3:42 PM

Bring back Tom Snyder's Nipplewatch.

Posted by: Tupac_Goldstein | January 15, 2007 4:04 PM

Well, the folks at 'Desparate Housewives' are missing the point.

I'm not offended by nudity, sex, titillation, suggestive behavoir, or housewives banging 17 year olds.

I'm bored.

It's just a cheap attempt to shock the viewers who can see all the nudity they want a few channels down.

What I am offended by is every sports event I watch with my son and daughter and having to sit through all those commercials repeatedly plugging "DH" and their hints at all the sex you might see the next time it's on.

Give it up. I'm not interested in seeing them naked. They don't do anything for me - too much corrective surgery and special lighting.

Shock me another way. Try ideas, not tits.

Posted by: fred | January 15, 2007 4:22 PM

Troubled times indeed when I quote a recent headline when they said the networks would not air the sadam hanging yet they did renew all of the new CSI seasons. I wonder what the total number dead bodies a child sees on television for the age of 10 - truly frightening! A terrible murder can be MORE than hinted at in a commercial for any crime show (during afternoon sporting events even!) but a pokey nipple during late night prime time is not good? Who are these people, anyway? And when will these people realize that "creatively" using profane words like "douchy" and "creative" bad sex scenes are a dime a dozen and that the real gold is in the STORY itself! They fight for the wrong things and prove themselves unworthy of the very craft they think they defend.

Posted by: Joe | January 16, 2007 6:12 PM

bamagirlinVA -

Thank you for mentioning that! Finally! I have been waiting for someone, somewhere, on the news or something, to say SOMETHING! So far, it's like it never happened. My bf and I sat there dumbfounded when we saw it, and yet no one has said anything, at all. I think we should send e-mails to FOX and the FCC DEMANDING some sort of fine or something. Sheesh - talk about double standards. (If I were Janet Jackson, I would definitely say something.)

Posted by: me | January 17, 2007 12:19 PM

the FCC has an online complaint form that is relatively easy to fill out. if you want attention, get a lot of people to fill it out. that's how Focus on the Family, et al, get action -- they just send a mass email out to all their members, who dutifully fill out the form (whether they actually saw it or not) and then, BAM!, justice.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 17, 2007 12:42 PM

FCC is a reactive institution, meaning they will only investigate if they receive a complaint. If you were so highly offended by the f-word on a pro-bush network (ah, synergy), then complain. If you don't complain and hear of no action taken, how do you know any complaints were submitted and conveniently ignored?

Posted by: FCC | January 17, 2007 2:08 PM

I would much rather that kids today saw sex and nudity on TV than violence. It is amazing to me how uptight we are as a society about anything even remotely sexual or even hinting at the naked human body. But chop someone's head off and you're ok.

That being said, I would much rather kids and adults get their nudity, sex and violence from fiction TV and movies than from the news. I personally have a much easier time with fiction because I know it's not real (and parents need to teach their kids the difference between reality and fiction). I can watch very violent movies, but if I see something violent on the news I get very upset and often have nightmares. Because I know it is real.

As far as the language thing goes, again, it's up to parents to decide what their kids can and can't watch. They are just words, they just happen to express very strong feelings. Kids these days hear them on the bus or at school. If the shows are on after 9pm then I don't think it is such a big deal. If I don't like the vulgarity of a show I just don't watch it. Works better than FCC fines every time!

I should probably disclose that I am a documentary filmmaker. I have worked on shows about the human body where we had to blur parts out. It was so ridiculous - we were trying to show the effects of breast cancer and we had to blur out the breasts! That's protecting our kids!

Posted by: DC TVPro | January 17, 2007 3:07 PM

It's unreal what they can show on '24' - Jack gnawed on a guy's NECK UNTIL HE DIED the other night! A knife went through a guy's knee! - but god forbid someone say 'douchy' on television, or 'ass', twice. Let alone the outline of a nipple. The horror! If the FCC is gonna crackdown on everything equally, that's one thing, but it's completely unfair to target sexuality and language, but not violence.

Posted by: sarahlucy | January 17, 2007 8:27 PM

Whenever the decency is brought up, I am reminded of the second season of Friends. The first season the show aired at 9 o'clock, the second season it was moved to 8 o'clock. There was all this hoopla about needing to clean up the language and subject matter for the "family hour".

2 seasons later and they had 100 episodes set for syndication. And when did the first season air? 3, 4, and 5 o'clock in the afternoon. Where were they decency folks then? Why was it now okay for the 9 o'clock show to air earlier?

Posted by: VT TV watcher | January 17, 2007 9:49 PM

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