TV Eye

A Spoonful of Censorship ...

I don't think censorship is a bad word, but it has become a bad word because everybody associates it with some kind of restriction on liberty. – Pat Boone
"I don't think censorship is a bad word, but it has become a bad word because everybody associates it with some kind of restriction on liberty." – Pat Boone

It's not often that I quote has-been 1950s rock-lite crooners, but when I saw Steve Miller's article written for The Washington Times last month (April 21), I just had to share:

"A healthy society needs censorship to survive," Miller writes. And according to Pat Boone: "I don't think censorship is a bad word, but it has become a bad word because everybody associates it with some kind of restriction on liberty."

You just can't make this stuff up.

Boone was in Washington speaking on behalf of the 60 Plus Association, a conservative senior citizen lobby. He was specifically lamenting the lack of self-censorship in the arts and entertainment, while praising Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ (he called Gibson an apostle) and decrying Hollywood's "antipathy toward Christianity."

All right, so Boone got part of it right. The official definition of censorship is "the institution, system, or practice of censoring" things, words, or actions that are objectionable. What Boone fails to recognize is the other part of the definition, "censorial control exercised repressively." Repression, like white buck shoes, is not something you want running wild in a supposedly democratic society.

Ever since Janet Jackson bared her breast (with Justin Timberlake's assistance, lest we forget), the press has been atwitter about the downfall of civilization, namely the broadcast airwaves, with the FCC stepping in to play potty-mouth police while ignoring gestures like that from the Sinclair Broadcast Group. Last week, Sinclair forbade its ABC affiliates to carry the special Friday night episode of Nightline devoted to reading the names of soldiers and others who've died while serving in Iraq. The special undermined U.S. efforts in Iraq, according to Sinclair spokespeople, and was an effort to "push public opinion toward the United States getting out of Iraq."

Prior to this, U2 lead singer Bono and NBC were censured for using the F-word during an award-show broadcast, and, after all these years, Howard Stern lost his job for, well, being Howard Stern. Now, some TV creative types are feeling the heat. According to The Hollywood Reporter, NYPD Blue producer Steven Bochco is aggravated by ABC's recent censorship of the Blue's "racy content" and threatens to close up shop if it continues. While I'm no fan of the Blue, gratuitous sex, or blue language, I'm much more anxious about the things I don't see on TV and why.

Prior to the Nightline flap, one of the largest demonstrations organized in favor of women's reproductive rights occurred on April 25. While most of the major news outlets covered the event the day it occurred, prior to it, there was little if any discussion about why the march was organized. To its credit, the locally produced Texas Monthly Talks featured, on April 22, an interview with Gloria Feldt, a native Texan and president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Unfortunately, I missed the episode. What I haven't missed are the frequently aired commercials by an enigmatic group called the Majella Society (I've seen the spots on the WB and KVUE). A call to the hotline number offered at the end of these spots provided little clarity as to the organization's mission, though the person I reached eventually called the group a "life-affirming" organization. Decipher that as you will, but I don't imagine their group was represented in the March for Women's Lives.

I don't expect my personal views to be always reflected on TV. This is not a good thing. Not because I think my way is the only way, but because a presentation of important issues from all sides is important for a well-informed society. If the only views come from those with the means to pay for airtime or from the likes of Sinclair Broadcast Group to censor by omission, there is something much more dangerous going on than someone uttering the F-word or showing a bit too much skin. "Saving" the public airwaves from "indecency" by finger wagging and punitive actions is misspent energy when the house is on fire. I would hope that we're not so glued to the box that we can't smell the smoke.

Now, if only Pat Boone could turn in his white buck shoes for a smoke detector.

More Friends

The one-hour series finale of Friends will be available on DVD May 11. Extras include a DVD-only version of the finale with unaired extras and the show's pilot episode, which originally aired in 1994.

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Steve Miller, Pat Boone, The Washington Times, Friends, Mel Gibson, Pat Boone, Bono, Howard Stern, Steven Bochco, Gloria Feldt

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