Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Rhymes With $#*!

William Shatner has a new show coming to CBS this fall. It's called "____ My Father Says." The blank is there for the expletive that the network is currently intending to use in the title. The series is based on a book by Justin Halpern. In presentation, Justin's web site uses a single asterisk between the other three letters to deflect censorship on Al Gore's Internet. That's the way it appears on the book jacket as well. And that makes sense, since they are selling a product and while there may be a certain amount of titillation in using "one of those words" right up front like that, but there is also a degree of caution that sanitizes it by using this very mild secret syntax. Inserting random symbols for possibly offensive words is a practice common in comic books and other printed material, where characters might feel the need to swear, but the comics code won't let them.
The Columbia Broadcasting System is taking this approach in their print media, using the assemblage "$#*!" to take the place of the missing word in their new show's title. However, since television uses audio, they use the broadcast equivalent, the "bleep" when announcing their new production. Rather than enunciating "Dollar sign, pound sign, asterisk, exclamation point My Father Says" coming up next on most of these stations," we can expect the tone of politeness to cover up the word that, by now everyone with a television set has made a guess at. I will be anxious to hear the guys in the booth during the football season do promos for the show on live TV, making the choice, perhaps on the fly, to let the five-second delay catch it or simply refer to it as "Bill Shatner's new show."
Which brings us to this point: If you are still unable, via standards and practices or concern for advertising revenue, to commit to the expletive of your choice, why not simply refer to it as "Stuff My Dad Says," and be done with it? I'm a big fan of artistic integrity, and I think that it's a shame that the first of seven words that George Carlin listed almost thirty years ago are still taboo on broadcast television. Which explains why Denis Leary shows up on Fox's cable alternative, FX. For the record, William Shatner doesn't think "the S word" should be a big deal. This makes sense because, first of all, if it is then maybe he won't have a show to promote. Second, and perhaps more obviously, if he has a show that people talk about before it's ever on the air because the title has a dirty word in it, then it matters just a little less that hundreds of advertisers are choosing to avoid it like the plague.
It remains an interesting conundrum, where our society has evolved in the way that it has and become so much more accepting of so many different sights and sounds, but this one little word can still stir up so much - stuff.


Anonymous said...

Pat, I'd like to buy an 'i' please.

Mrs. Id said...

Some alternatives for Bill:
"Shite My Dad Says" (credit due Gina)
"Shoot My Dad Says"
"Shizzle My Dad Says"

They're just not asking enough of their creative team.