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NBC and 'Southland' producers worried about the bleeping FCC

Can bleeps be indecent?

That's what NBC and the team behind "Southland," the network's gritty cop drama, are trying to figure out.

Worried about increased scrutiny of program content by the Federal Communications Commission, NBC executives and the show's top staffers including creator Ann Biderman and executive producer John Wells have discussed whether the show's gimmick of bleeping out swear words could put the network afoul of indecency rules. The reason for the sudden concern is because "Southland," which is made by Warner Bros., is moving from its current 10 p.m. time slot, which is safe from the FCC's indecency rules, to 9 p.m. this fall, which does fall under the commission's purview.

We've posted a clip below to give you a flavor of what "Southland" does (pay attention at 2:13). It is similar to what Fox did years ago with its short-lived Hollywood comedy "Action," which starred Jay Mohr as a studio executive with a blue streak that made Ari Gold of "Entourage" look like Mr. Rogers.

So if there is already a precedent for bleeping, what's the big deal? Well it was a different world back in 1999 when Fox premiered "Action." Bill Clinton was president and it was five years before Janet Jackson had the wardrobe malfunction that rocked the world. Since then, the broadcast networks have been pressured by the commission and advocacy groups to steer clear of anything remotely risque. At the same time, cable continues to push the envelope (yes, we just used that tired cliche) and get rewarded with Emmys and ratings. Cable content does not fall under the FCC's purview.

Although worrying about bleeped words sounds a little extreme, the fines for indecency have gone from $32,500 per incident to $325,000, and even if the networks do fight fines and win the legal costs are huge. In other words, NBC's right to be a little paranoid.

Among the ideas said to be floating around were possibly pixilating the mouths of the characters while they were being bleeped or finding other ways to obscure their faces at the crucial moment so it would be harder for all those lip readers out there to figure out just what the bleep is being said.

We suggest having the characters say something that will look like the real thing when it is bleeped, although that might lead to a lot of reshoots when cast members burst out laughing while saying, "what the fudge was that?"

-- Joe Flint

Comments () | Archives (5)

Well, frack that!

That whole piece of the show is stupid and contrived. Do the writers/producers really think viewers think the show is reality? Give me a break.

OR, they could just write the dialogue without the profanity and avoid the extra expense of bleeping and pixelating. If the story lines and characters were well written, no one would care that they aren't swearing. Of course, then they couldn't pretend to be so edgy. :rolleyes:

I'm pretty sure they know the difference between reality and fiction. But they also recognise how utterly ridiculous it would be to have a cop show where the cops don't swear so they've found a compromise. I like that Southland is a bit different. It seems like if you're not watching HBO these days, you're going to get nothing but glossy predictable rubbish that looks and sounds exactly the same.
The F.C.C are idiots if they try to stop the bleeping.

NBC is creatively in the toilet, if they think that just being able to swear on TV is "edgy." It's a stale, silly gimmick they should lose. For some reason, some broadcast network executives think that cable shows are popular because they can say the f* word, but that's not why. It's because they are well-written with good characters. Let the writing and the characters speak for themselves and NBC wouldn't need to bleep. Somehow CBS & ABC manage to be the best networks around without bleeping. NBC should consider actually producing good shows instead of the loads of crap they are broadcasting, like "I'm a Celebrity.." And another obvious thing is that if they weren't putting boring old Jay Leno on every single night at 10, they wouldn't have this problem in the first place. I think they should bleep out Zucker & Silverman, who have completely ruined this network.


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