Battles between show runners and network Standards & Practices (i.e. Censors – despite what their business cards say) are common. Personally, I never had a major run-in with them. They have been annoying and at times infuriating but that’s just part of the process. Most of the time you can work things out. They tend to be reasonable. A good friend of mine is the head of Standards & Practices at one of the major networks. We go to lunch and just wait for him to say "fuck" so I can bleep him.
But we had an incident in the mid 80s when we were doing MARY (the Mary Tyler Moore comeback vehicle) that at least gave us a chance to have a little fun at their expense… in some small, admittedly immature, but mirth provoking way.
Our S&P person was a middle-aged spinster. Picture: Aunt Bea from THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW. In one episode we had Mary innocently say “yin yang” in a speech. Aunt Bea called and said we’d have to lose that. Why? She said it was a euphemism for penis. Well first off, I had never heard it used in that context and secondly, we weren’t using it in a suggestive manner. “Yin yang” is the Chinese symbol for opposites. Plus, Mary Tyler Moore was saying it. We were not going to have America's sweetheart do a dick joke.
Still Aunt Bea was adamant. She had a list of euphemisms for penis and none of those words were allowed.
She had a list? An actual list?
I got an idea. I said to her it would be very helpful to hear the list so we’d know in the future what words to avoid. Would she please read them aloud to me?
I then put her on speaker phone so the entire writing staff could hear as Aunt Bea went down the list. Just imagine your dear sweet grandmother saying, “willy. wang, dong, baloney pony, Captain Winkie”.
We were dying.
She was clearly uncomfortable too. But when she finished I asked if there was a list for breasts. As a matter-of-fact there was. I had her recite that list to the gang. “Hooters, kazonkas, sweater meat”.
She reeeeally wanted to hang up after that list. But there was yet another list we really needed to hear. “What about vagina?” I asked.
She took a deep breath. And then from “cha-cha” to “hoo-hoo” with every “man in the boat” in between, she rattled off the terms. Dropping the “C-bomb” and a few that were so ugly that I could only picture Andrew Dice Clay saying them.
I thanked her, she hung up, and we howled for twenty minutes.
We got very few S&P notes after that. And to be fair, we always tried to take the high road on that show anyway. We weren’t looking to slip in dick jokes.
Here’s how far television has come: For a full list of those CBS euphemisms for “penis” watch any three episodes of 2 BROKE GIRLS.