Q. My writing partner and I have just finished working on a spec pilot about teenagers in turmoil and they cuss a lot. I mean, A LOT. Right now we have the cuss words in there, but the kids are Latino so some of the words are Spanglish and some of them are English. Of course we want to use this as a writing sample, but we'd really love to maybe try to pitch it one day if we can squeeze it into somebody's hands. So should we leave the cuss words in? Should we switch them all to Spanish words? Should we try to take them out, which I really don't want to do for both realism and the giant pain in the ass it would be?
Oh, gosh. Golly. It sounds like you're worried that you might offend someone in showbiz with your bad language.
Would I worry about that? Nope.
Do people in showbiz swear a lot? You bet they do.
Did it take me several years to stop saying the F word around my kids after 15 years in LA? You bet it did.
So as far as offending agents and publishers, well gosh darn it girl, cuss away.
I am assuming, of course, that your spec pilot is for HBO. You can't curse on broadcast TV, thanks to the FCC. (You can curse a bit on Canadian TV. That must be because of the First Amendment. Oh, wait, that doesn't make sense...) Saturday Night Live
had to bleep Justin Timberlake's latest, er, hit -- the one about the special present he was wrapping for his girlfriend -- though I suspect the word that people filled in the bleep with was naughtier than the word actually sung.
And "frak" just sounds silly.
You can't curse on most cable networks, either, because they don't want to offend their audience. Jon Stewart is bleeped. But on HBO and Showtime, it's de rigueur to curse as much as possible, so they can justify their subscription fees.
I doubt you can get away with Spanish curses on broadcast, either. Too many Latinos watching in the States. Ironically you can say "bugger" and "bint" all you like (pace Buffy
), thanks to the French fleet showing up at Yorktown.
So you may want to consider writing two versions of your spec pilot, one for pay cable, one for broadcast. The pay cable version can be as filthy as you like. (Throw in some gratuitous lesbianism and you're set.) The broadcast version, sorry to say, will have to use innuendo and inventive language to get around Standards and Practices.
Labels: spec pilots