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Friday, October 02, 2009

Q. I'm currently writing a television pilot in the veign of Lost, Flashforward, etc. I was able to get a hold of the Flashforward pilot and noticed a lot of f-bombs in the dialogue. Obviously this won't get past the script stage. So my question is; why would the writers use language they know can't be used on network, or even cable TV, for that matter? Is it to just try and impress the reader, or because they knew knew they had a pilot order?
That's a good question. It's naughty, but I've done it myself.

I think it's because cable has accustomed us to hearing people on TV drop f-bombs, just like in real life. So you hate to censor your characters, especially when the line calls out for foul language. "Fine, then, let's just screw" isn't funny as, well, you know. You figure it'll read better now, and then you can replace the word later.

It is naughty, though. I wouldn't do it unless you're sure you can get away with it. If you're an emerging writer, you run the risk of looking like you don't know you're writing for network.

(Incidentally, Canadian broadcast TV has slightly looser rules. You can say a lot of, er, stuff after 9 pm.)

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8 Comments:

You just reminded me of the deal Haddock made with CBC for Intelligence. Any time I was watching the show, I knew I was coming up on the midpoint 'cause that's when the "f-word" would start showing up. For some reason, CBC told him "after 9:30" He didn't always stick to that rule. Gave me a chuckle though.

By Blogger Daniel, at 1:53 PM  

What're the general "rules" for other swear words? *somewhere in the darkness the TV version of the MPAA tick off swear words on an abacus*

By Blogger Amy Butler, at 4:50 PM  

@Amy: They depend on time of day, and they vary by network or cable channel. They also depend on how popular the show is. Popular shows get away with more borderline language than unpopular ones do. Just watch the shows at that hour on that network and hear what they're not saying...

By Blogger Alex Epstein, at 5:06 PM  

In the UK, rules are pretty much anything post watershed (9pm), occasional swears past 6pm, and nothing in the day (bar live mishaps), from what I've heard this a lot more forgiving than in the US and Canada.

This is on the BBC too, not just satellite/cable.

By Blogger James Boocock, at 5:54 PM  

@James: Yeah, but we can have people say "bollocks" or "bugger" any time of day.

By Blogger Alex Epstein, at 6:05 PM  

Flash forward was originally developed for HBO that's why there are a lot of F bombs. I believe HBO still owns it but preferred to release it to a network so that it could make more money if you wanna know more about flash forward check out the Blog and podcast Blackout 2:17 at www.blackout217.com

By OpenID cabbages83, at 7:22 PM  

Hello, I am a student writer. How does one get the Flash Forward pilot episode script?

Thank you!

By Blogger garcon, at 1:07 PM  

Lost scripts have a lot of curse words, especially the f-bombs. My understanding is that they stand out in that way from other non-cable tv scripts. And since Flashfoward is trying to be the new Lost, I'm not surprised they follow suit in the writing of the script.

Having expletives enhances the drama and excitement while reading, which is the primary reason I've heard the Lost writers used them so much.

And if you're writing an action spec, you want to thrill your reader as much as possible.

By Blogger Claude, at 8:19 PM  

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