14 February, 2007


...so reads the "vanity card" to a recent Two and a Half Men episode. The vanity card is a witty bit by the producer, Chuck Lorre, on at the end of every one of his productions for only a second and designed to be read by stopping the playback on freeze-frame. Although they are documented online at his website if you don't want to bust your VCR.

Ironically, the card CBS refused to allow on air was in response to complaints about the show's content. Of the comedies my cousin, Cathy, in Chicago tapes for me, I look forward to Two and A Half Men airmailing across the Atlantic the most. But I have to admit I was surprised at just how near the knuckle some of the gags have been this season - for US network TV.

The skill in the writing has been in being implicit rather than being explicit and writers with more freedom could learn from that as being subtle is often better than being obvious. I have been trying not to worry about the show's fate considering that neo-cons have been in charge of regulating television since the "wardrobe malfunction" at the Super Bowl.

Chuck Lorre makes a good and very funny point in that censored card: why are people watching his sitcom each week just to complain about it? There are programmes in the UK that have been watched and enjoyed by millions but because a few people have complained the programme makers have been chastised. But if you read the regulator decisions it's usually either about inappropriate content pre-watershed - no argument there - or about clearly signposted post-watershed programmes. If a programme's about sex and you're sexphobic don't watch it. Unless of course it's an educational programme on how to deal with one's sexphobia, in which case it might be a good idea to watch.

So these complaints aren't about people being forced to watch something they find offensive but about them trying to stop other people watching those shows and trying to change the climate of what is considered acceptable.

In those regulator reports there are complaints from people who seemingly spend their time searching the adult channels for when women reveal more than is allowed. Now if you're horny and lonely and doing that, that's fair enough, I won't judge, but doing the same thing just so you can complain beggers belief.

It's strange that when you've got someone flicking through porn channels with a penis in their hand and someone else flicking through porn channels with a pencil in their hand, it's the pencil wielder who's the wanker I feel more sorry for.

I had the option of stopping that video cassette tape Cathy sent me and throwing it in the bin at the first sign of near-knuckleness but I chose to watch on because of the sheer brilliantly written hilarity. I have however noticed the "off-switch option" being mentioned more frequently in defence by programme-makers and I only hope it catches on.

Ben Richards made the same point beautifully and, sadly, bravely in last week's excellent Party Animals in relation to Muslim extremism and book burning. There is no right not to be offended and that's how it should be. Although, to be honest, Torchwood does test my tolerance somewhat.

Chuck Lorre interview on the pain of comedy

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