By historical standards, television has certainly lightened up a bit in the last fifteen years. If the guys from Mad Men flipped on their 350-lbs Admiral televisions and happened to catch a random episode of, say, Game of Thrones, they’d probably have a collective heart attack and die. Granted, that would be from the copious booze and smoking, but still..
TV shows have a long and noble history of slipping highly-charged (puerile, offensive, vulgar, controversial) material under the noses of censors and critics alike, and in these days of endless analyzing and commentary and scrutiny, let’s pay a tribute to some shows that have carried on this fine tradition.
Probably the patron saint of “I can’t believe they got away with that on television,” AD sets the gold standard by managing to slip in an actual f-word into an episode of broadcast television.
They pulled that one off by splitting up and reversing the scene (where he starts to say the word), airing the last half first, cutting away to another scene, and then cutting back. Pretty ballsy! Speaking of balls, they had an entire gimmick based around a close-up photograph of Tobias’s testicles looking like Iraq, and the photograph was, in fact, balls…. I guess at a certain level of magnification, it becomes Science and not offensive?
They also got away with a cab driver saying the phrase “gothic asshole” on television, despite “asshole” being one of the words you’re not supposed to be able to get away with on broadcast television – mostly due to the driver seemingly repeating the phrase “gothic castle” in a thick cockney accent.
The show was laden with so much innuendo that you have to think that at some point, the network censors kind of let it wash over them. How else do you explain things like this?
You need look no further than the image that headlines this article to see what kind of crap Community gets away with.
Deep Space Nine
By far the most risque ‘trek, DS9 boldly goes where many sci-fi shows have gone before: using “alien culture” as a clever disguise for innuendo. I mean, it doesn’t get any more blatant than oo-mox.
Not shown: the Ferengi “old wives’ tale” that too much oo-mox makes you go deaf. Yep.
This show practically made innuendo into an art form. The classic Wacky Mixup is a trope Fraiser leaned on pretty heavily, but one thing it led to was being able to do long, convoluted descriptions of graphic, horrifying sexual acts that – Wacky Mixup! – were actually about taking a dog for a walk.
The Gong Show
The Gong Show played a dangerous game with censors, and since they were continually bringing in new acts, there was really no baseline for what was standard and what was just over the top. So, occasionally they’d accept acts that they KNEW would get cut so they could have a “pushing it, but not as bad” act instead. Of course, the reason it was a dangerous game was that sometimes, some over-the-top stuff got approved, like the following clip, which yes, actually aired on television in 1978. It’s technically SFW, but I wouldn’t. It’s pretty uncomfortable.
Sometimes “getting crap under the radar” can backfire.
Mystery Science Theater 3000
I think for this one, it was just the sheer under-the-radar-ness of the show itself. Since it was just old movie footage and people talking over it, you’d have to pay pretty close attention (if you were a censor) to catch anything at all subtle. There’s no visual cue for the dialogue, and this kind of low profile let them get away with some ridiculously dirty jokes:
A fine tradition of pushing the envelope; TV has been doing it for years. What are some examples you guys can think of?