Friday, August 13, 2010

Shatner's new sitcom sparks obscenity debate

"The word 'shit' is around us," says William Shatner, "It isn't a terrible term. It's a natural function. Why are we pussyfooting?"

This just in, Shatner likes shit.

This quote may need some context, although the context doesn't help much. Premiering on September 23rd is a new sitcom starring William Shatner called $#*! My Dad Says, based on the popular Twitter feed by Justin Halpern called Shit My Dad Says. The feed recalls quotes created by his father, Sam Halpern. While television sitcoms are usually inspired by comedians' acts, now we have them being inspired by Twitter.

Now on one hand it somewhat makes sense to retain some form of the original title. By naming the show after the Twitter feed it identifies the source of the humor and allows fans of the website to find the show easily. This, however, is made tricky but the word shit in the title. CBS, attempting some middle ground, decided to change the word shit into jumbled symbols straight out of Beetle Bailey.

Oh Sarge, will you and Beetle ever get along?

By taking the middle ground nobody wins. The title is still considered offensive because of it's obvious allusion. CBS also loses because the title makes no sense now. How are you suppose to refer to the show without being forced to curse? Just trying to type the title into Google was a pain for myself, trying to figure out what order the symbols were it. Titles are suppose to be snappy and easy to remember (which is why i chose the awesome title for this blog), not about trying to figure out a password.

To be fair to the watchdogs out there keeping tabs on the devil that is television, does the word shit really belong on CBS Thursdays? I doubt parents want to have to worry about their kids learning about the word before they are ready (it seems to be around nine or ten that kids finally discover curse words and once they discover how easy it is, they do nothing but swear for the next year or two. I call this, the cursing phase). And whats a show with shit in the title doing on CBS anyway? CBS always seemed like the older people's network.

Diagnosis: Murder ran for EIGHT seasons on CBS with a viewership made up completely of women over 60 and myself when I was seven.

CBS has the most bland, white bread television around and that's why it's the best network around. When your edgiest sitcom is Big Bang Theory (which to be completely honest is a good television show) then you aren't exactly known for taking chances. I can expect a publicity stunt like this out of FOX but CBS should be above this. Although to be fair, if publicity factored into the reasoning behind the title at all then it was a brilliant decision. Who would care about a Shatner sitcom if it wasn't for its controversial title?

Part of what this all comes down to is the difference between two mediums: internet and television. With the internet you have the option of deciding what to look at and what not to. It's hard to imagine why so many people complain about being bored all the time (i.e. all my Facebook friends) when there is a limitless amount of entertainment on the internet. To actually find something takes some searching so you don't have to worry about being offensive. If somebody doesn't like cursing then they just wouldn't go to Halpern's Twitter feed. However, when you have a prime time show on network television (theoretically the most expected time of the day to get viewers on the most accessible channel for viewers) some responsibility needs to be taken into account.

Now on a personal note, I have no problem personally with cursing. While up till now I've tried to not curse on this blog for professionalism's sake, it is only a front. In real life i have no problems with cursing and curse all the time (I once accidentally dropped the f-bomb when talking to a priest in high school and, without realizing my mistake, continued to curse like a sailor in front of the padre). I owe my support of cursing to Lenny Bruce, a comedian from the 50's into the 60's. If you have ever heard a comedian curse on stage they owe a debt to Lenny Bruce. Lenny Bruce is the patron saint of anybody that has ever had to apologize for they foul mouth. Lenny Bruce was against censorship and was even arrested once for foul language in his act. Bruce would fight censorship until his death by overdose. It was his fight against censorship that broke him and fueled his heroin addiction that led to his death. This is why Lenny Bruce is my hero.

RIP 1925-1966

So do I personally care that Shatner has a sitcom coming out whose title alludes to shit? No not at all. I do see where some parents may object to the title however. The watch groups should not of fed into the hands of CBS though and just of let it go. I bet you that Shatner already had some blurbs written out for when the title created controversy. Without the controversy nobody would care about this show and even with a slight ratings bump because of that controversy it's still probably going to be canceled.

I give the show till the end of November.

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