The show I’m currently working on, “Surviving Jack,” airs on the Fox Network, which is one of the four major broadcast networks. They are, in no particular order: ABC, CBS, FOX, and Univision. Just kidding NBC! Great, now NBC is sitting in the corner not talking to me. Fine, be that way. Anyway, each one of these networks has a branch called “Standards and Practices.” These are the people that decide what words you can or can not say on their network. Now, a common misconception when you hear about network standards is that there are a list of words you can say, and a list of words you can’t. This is mostly incorrect. There are obviously some words that you most certainly can not say on the big four networks.
Can’t say that bad boy under any circumstances. In fact, you can’t even have a character say “F that,” not that you would want to because who the fuck says “F that” in real life? Maybe a 45 year old manager at Kinkos that’s trying to relate to his teenage staff. So, that’s a very easy and clear one, but let’s take a look at where things start to get a little tricky.
"But Justin, I’ve watched episodes of shows YOU’VE written with the word crap in them!" you say. First, you’re a liar. The ratings clearly show that NO ONE has watched any episodes of anything I’ve written. Secondly, you would be correct in saying that you hear the word "crap" on network television ALL THE TIME. Probably more than you should. But it is not universally allowed. For instance, a character can say "This place smells like crap," but they can NOT say "I just took a crap." WHY YOU ASK? Because you can use the word crap to talk about everything… EXCEPT FOR ACTUAL CRAP. Which is a little bit like being able to use your asshole for everything but farting and shitting. Now, here’s where things get a little more fun. The people at standards and practices, although seemingly robots designed to kill fun, are, in fact, not robots, but just people. And sometimes you will use a risqué word that they, being decent, god-fearing people, are not familiar with.
For those of you who don’t know, a “Blumpkin” is a ludicrous word which describes the act of a woman giving a blow job to man while he poops. (Side note: if you think misogyny ceases to exist, I googled bumpkin to get the above image — I swear that’s what it was for— and there were roughly a trillion results for this horrifically degrading sex act.) Now, a few years ago I was on staff of a little show on CBS called “How To Be A Gentleman.” My mom’s review of the show was: “I don’t get it. It’s a comedy, right? I’m sorry, honey, I’ll still try and watch but your father said he can’t take it.” Anyway, on that show, we had a big meathead character use the word Blumpkin in one of the scripts. (And we were cancelled? WHA?) Standards wrote back and said no way. When they say no, you usually get a note that looks like this one, which was given on an episode of Touched By An Angel:
Hmm, maybe that wasn’t from Touched By An Angel. Either way, that’s what they look like, and that’s basically what our “blumpkin” note looked like on H-TBAG. (What we called How To Be A Gentleman. Not joking.) After the table read, when the execs were giving notes to the head writers, I decided to ask the 45-year-old, very conservative standards and practices lady how she came across the word blumpkin in the first place, and how she decides what can and can’t be said.
"Oh, I had no idea what a blumpkin was. If I don’t know a word, I just look it up on urban dictionary and if I see the definition is something that makes me go ‘EW’ then I don’t allow it on air.’
SHE JUST GOES TO URBAN DICTIONARY AND SEES IF IT MAKES HER GO EW, PEOPLE. Which means standards and practices is basically your mom. And if you think about it, her system isn’t that bad. Policing of language can never be an exact science, nor is it something networks really even want to do. It’s just something they have to pretend to do so that a small, incredibly vocal minority of repressed individuals won’t go fucking apeshit, which in turn will scare off advertisers whose goal is to be as milquetoast as fucking possible whilst cramming their product down your throat. The ultimate goal is to make money, and if the networks and advertisers thought they could do it by showing a penis ejaculate on loop for eight hours without catching any flack for it, I’d be a writer on “The New Adventures Of Old Dick Ejaculate.”