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Sunday, November 16, 2014

Carlin's words, updated

George Carlin in the mid-'70s famously identified the seven words you can's say on television. In this review of the new legal show Benched,* NPR's Linda Holmes identifies the new prevailing rules as follows:

Basic Cable: SNOF (Shit, No Fuck), with an addendum for Breaking Bad to say "fuck" every 2-3 episodes, when it really mattered

Broadcast: NOSNOF (No Shit, No Fuck)

Pay Cable: ATFWYCSO (All The F Words You Can Spit Out)

This NPR piece from about a year ago offers a longer take on the subject. It shows that while we focus a lot on "shit" and "fuck," the word on Carlin's list that has universally come to be regarded as taboo is the one for women and/or their genitalia--no one thinks of using it, although the workarounds arguably are just as offensive. The piece also shows--still--how silly much of this is, at least for adult-centered programs.

By the way, I think I second Holmes's recommendation of the show, at least based on one episode. Although the premise is a bit offensive legally--woman lawyer has in-office meltdown (because, you know, women lawyers), still can get a job at the Public Defender's Office (because, you know, anyone can). But it has the potential to at least be funny.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on November 16, 2014 at 10:31 AM in Culture, First Amendment, Howard Wasserman | Permalink


My first impression of "Benched" was better than "Bad Judge," but even beyond the over the top opening and her being able to get a P.D. job (it was as I recall "six months later" or something), it was pretty forced.

The "injustice of it all" flavor and so on was about as nuanced as "Night Court," which to be fair was often pretty funny, especially when Brent Spiner guest starred.

The language issue is absurd, of course, though many radio shows are funnier when they use offensive workarounds, such as those including the word "Tuesday." Maybe, this is the "artistic" value saving grace.

Posted by: Joe | Nov 16, 2014 10:41:45 AM

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