• Coming Soon to Broadcast TV: F-Words

    by  • July 14, 2014 • Broadcast Decency, Profanity • 24 Comments

    marrymeMuch has been said and written about the broadcast networks’ perceived need to compete with cable as a justification for pushing the boundaries on broadcast television. Most recently, NBC Entertainment division chairman Bob Greenblatt spoke of the challenges broadcasters face in trying to compete against cable at the Emmys. There is a coolness factor that is clearly of paramount to concern to Greenblatt and his peers, and a small cadre of Hollywood insiders, but is of little interest or concern to the vast majority of television viewers. At the Television Critics Association (TCA) tour, Greenblatt recently said, “Cable can be darker, more interesting, feels cooler than some of the things we can do, it’s just a fact of life.”

    So here again is proof that Hollywood is less interested in programming for viewers at home than in programming for themselves and their Hollywood insider peers. It matters not one bit that an average episode of NCIS brings in three times as many viewers as the Emmy nominated Game of Thrones, or that the average television viewer doesn’t perceive frontal female nudity, explicit sex, and the ability to drop the “F-bomb” every thirty seconds as an indicator of great writing or quality programming.

    And so the networks continue their program of blurring the lines between broadcast television and cable. The latest case in point is the new NBC comedy Marry Me which made liberal use of the “f-word” in the pilot episode, which was seen by television critics at the Summer TV Press Tour. One critic pointed it out to series creator David Caspe, and asked, “Are you going to be writing it this way, and… let Standards cut it out?”

    Caspe answered, “I haven’t thought about it much. Maybe a little bit, here and there, and then I cut it.”

    But this is only a sign of things to come. According to television critic Lisa de Moraes:

    During a session for new drama State of Affairs, executive producer Joe Carnahan said his goal for the series was to push content boundaries to create a drama that would “out-do what cable has become, (which is), let’s face it, the standard bearer.” To which, his fellow State of Affairs EP Ed Bernero, responded, “We have to use a little bit different language, and can’t show sex as much,” but the biggest difference between cable drama and broadcast is that both start with characters that are “messed up” but cable shows make the character “more messed up” while broadcast series feel the need to “fix them right away.”

    “There’s nothing cable can do that we can’t do,” Bernero concluded. “Except show boobs,” series star Katherine Heigl muttered.

    The conversation carried over into the Marry Me session. “I think ‘f***’ is NBC-friendly now,” joked Ken Marino, who stars as the romantic lead, opposite Casey Wilson, in the single-cam comedy about a young couple who, after dating six years, get engaged and realize it’s harder than it looks.

    One critic wondered whether this comedy series would be an historic standards moment in TV.

    “I would love to say ‘fuck’ on NBC but I don’t think this is going to be the groundbreaking. If want to make sure it sounds like people talk – people tend to swear a little,” exec producer Caspe said.

    “And, if you don’t like it – fuck off!” joked star Wilson.

    “Not you!” Caspe hastened to tell TV critics, adding, “We love all you – fuck on!”

    But where does this boldness come from in so aggressively asserting their intent to push content boundaries? It doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Remember just a few years ago when the networks were challenging FCC indecency fines in the courts, the standard line was that even if they could use more explicit sex and profanity doesn’t mean they would. But now that we’ve gone for years without any FCC enforcement, the networks are no longer shy about revealing their true agenda. And Hollywood’s vision for the future of broadcast television will soon be reality if we don’t speak up against it now.



    Ms. Henson is a noted expert on entertainment industry trends and the how the impact of entertainment affects children and the American popular culture at large. She also directs the organization’s Advertiser Accountability Campaign, which encourages companies to sponsor family-friendly entertainment. She previously supervised the research and program content analysis operations of the PT and produced a number of groundbreaking PTC studies that document the levels of graphic sex, violence and profanity on television. Some of those reports include: The Ratings Sham I & II, Dying to Entertain, Faith in a Box, The Sour Family Hour, The Blue Tube, and TV Bloodbath. She began her career with the PTC in 1997 as an entertainment analyst, documenting instances of inappropriate content on television. Ms. Henson has appeared on a variety of television shows including Fox News Channel’s The O’Reilly Factor, Your World with Neil Cavuto, The Big Story, CNN Headline News’ ShowBiz Tonight, CNBC’s On the Money, MSNBC’s Scarborough Country, and CBN’s Newswatch. She is a frequent guest on radio talk shows across the country and has been quoted extensively in news sources such asEntertainment Weekly, Time, Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, New York Times, USA Today, New York Daily News, Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, Variety, Associated Press, Reuters, and Bloomberg. Ms. Henson is a graduate of the University of Virginia where she received a BA in Government. She resides in Falls Church, Va., with her husband and their son.

    24 Responses to Coming Soon to Broadcast TV: F-Words

    1. RON
      January 13, 2017 at 10:16 pm

      I just read the above article which is the last artile of 7 or 8 I have just read. The others explained the current use of Swear words, Supreme Court Comment and FCC response.

      I don’t watch a lot of TV and only receive Basic. I enjoy the older reruns and frequently se the Logo TV / PG superimposed.
      It used to be that Parent organizations were frequently mentioned in the news. NOT ANYMORE!

      I assume and believe that Parentstv.org has abdicated their persecution of the standards.


      1. ) One thing that became obvious from the articles I read is that Advertisers are still sensitive to content.
      2. ) The reason there is the amount of existing bad content is that the public is NOT COMPLAINING IN VOLUME.

    2. Travis
      September 26, 2016 at 1:54 pm

      Throwing cuss words around is just lazy writing. I think there are definitely a place for it, where it brings reality into what you are watching, but it is not necessary to the degree writers are thinking it is.
      Take Heath Ledger’s Joker performance. Wonderfully done. Depicting a compete psychopath, and yet i cant remember him saying one swear word. Another example is Stranger Things. Yes, again there is some swearing, but nothing that makes you back up and say wow, why did they have to throw that in there.
      In short, you can make great content without boobs, and f-bombs

    3. Allison
      September 13, 2014 at 9:00 am

      I don’t get why people think “quality” programming must include graphic sex/violence/profanity. Isn’t it about the quality of the writing and acting that should count? Don’t get this whole race into the gutter. I remember when I grew up that there were programs you could watch as a family. The networks don’t make those shows anymore. Now it’s all about being dark and edgy.

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *