Tuesday, August 24, 2010

One of my favorite network censor stories

Yeah, this one's a dandy. It occurred on MAUDE, a big hit show from the 70s. Remember last month my post on CBS Standards & Practices having a list of unacceptable words? They were even worse in the 70s.

MAUDE was a spinoff of ALL IN THE FAMILY and had that same biting edge to it. Censors were always having fits. Hey, they had an abortion episode on MAUDE. Meanwhile, Marcia Brady struggled with split ends.

On show nights MAUDE had two tapings. One at 5:30 and the other at 8:00. They then edited together the best performances. And in between the writers fixed jokes that clunked.

One week there was a joke the censor objected to. I don't know specifically what the joke was. The producers fought vehemently that the line was acceptable. Finally the censor offered a compromise.

They could do the joke during the 5:30 taping.

But if it got a laugh it had to come out.

What??!! How the hell do you even respond to that????

That’s the kind of thing we had to deal with. I think if that censor were assigned to TWO AND A HALF MEN his head would explode by week two.

Tomorrow: another censorship story...but this one almost got me fired.

17 comments:

rob! said...

I would think having Adrienne Barbeau on TV at all would have violated several S&P rules of the time.

Julian said...

I thought this story sounded familiar.

I'm afraid you already told it.

But it was obviously a good one, because I remembered it after over a year.

Eve said...

Priceless.

carol said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
carol said...

I would quite like to know what the joke was, please. Also, did you tell the audience not to laugh at it a head of time? I would have.

My son (he's 13) likes the 'Kids Bop' CDs - wherein kids sing today's hits. Including Lady Gaga. Which means the chorus to Telephone became 'I'm out at a club and I'm eating that grub' instead of 'sipping my bub'. Because, Drinking is Bad. BUT they leave in all the annoying grammatical errors that some of these songs have. Like for example, the song that asks 'who could have ever knew'.

I personally think they should leave in the drinking but fix the grammar. I can explain the drinking.

Tom Quigley said...

Miss Priscilla Goodbody, the NBC censor that Johnny Carson was always referring to, must have also worked for CBS...

brickben said...

I incorrectly stated that Andy Griffith used the term "ragging me" in the comments from last month's post. It was Aunt Bea at 4:48 of this clip from 'Bargain Day'. That's probably why it got by.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=26e4kbKZdtk&p=F8849251D6BC0C68&playnext=1&index=27

benson said...

Someone (an apsiring writer?) asked Ken a question regarding pitches a few days ago. Mark Evanier's blog today has an interesting reminiscense regarding that and CBS.

jbryant said...

The use of "ragging" as in "ragging me" or "ragging on" something goes back to the 1700s or so and simply means scolding. The menstrual and sexual uses of the term came much later--not sure when, but I doubt anyone on the Andy Griffith staff was trying to put one over on the censors.

D. McEwan said...

So an "objectional" joke is okay just as long as it's not funny? Boy, that is beyond reason.

sephim said...

I have only ever seen one episode of MAUDE and it involved homosexuals and the old zinger regarding what to call their protest group - Fathers Against Gays...

Cap'n Bob Napier said...

Aunt Bee.

Matt A said...

Did people ever actually laugh at jokes on Maude?

Paul Duca said...

I read a story about Norman Lear and "questionable dialogue". ALL IN THE FAMILY also had two tapings, and in one episode Edith Bunker was discussing a Christmas card from an old friend of Archie's, who had become a successful car dealer--"It was so lovely...the Christ Child riding in a blue convertible"
At the second taping, the line was changed to "the Three Wise Men riving in a blue convertible". Then Lear polled the audience to ask which one they preferred. The majority favored "Christ Child" but Lear decided to go with "Wise Men" because of the "sincerity of the objection" from the others.



WVL coustot--the Americanized version of Jacques Cousteau

Maude Findlay said...

God will get you for that, Matt A

Kirk Jusko said...

It reminds me of The Smother Brother sketch where some guy in the suit reads a script, laughs out loud, and then tears a page out. He hands it to another suit who again laughs and again rips out a page. This continues a couple more times until a suit gets the script, reads it, and says "This isn't funny!" He then hands it to Tom and Dick and says, "We're all through censoring your show, boys!"

Abie the Fish Peddler said...

Because we do not know the joke in question, we can only guess, but...

I suspect it was a double entendre--a line whose literal meaning was innocent enough, but which became smuttier if you used the secondary meanings of some of the words. The censor was presumably assuming that, if the line did not get a laugh, that meant that people were not getting the second meaning. His job, after all, was not to keep the programming absolutely clean, only to keep it clean enough that the FCC did not levy any fines and the advertisers did not withdraw their commercials. A dirty joke that no one got would have been all right.