Blogs > Liberty and Power > From Ryan to Sipowicz

Mar 2, 2005 12:10 pm

From Ryan to Sipowicz

I know this is old news already... but since I posted on this topic here and here back in November, I felt an obligation to report that the FCC ruled that the unedited showing of"Saving Private Ryan" did not violate its guidelines on"indecency." This should send a signal to those 66 ABC affiliates who chose not to air the film in the wake of FCC crackdowns and fines in the post-Janet Jackson Boob Era.

It's interesting that the FCC suggests that it's all a matter of context. Saying"FUBAR" ("Fucked Up Beyond All Recognition") in"Saving Private Ryan" is okay, but would probably be cause for a fine if, say, Chris Rock had uttered it on the Academy Awards broadcast. In this atmosphere, it's understandable why Steven Bochco, co-creator of NYPD Blue, which ended its 12-year run last night in a glorious finale, would be reluctant to launch such a show today. As Bochco puts it here:"I don't think today we could sell NYPD Blue in the form that it launched 12 years ago ... I had hoped, and I think probably everybody in television had hoped, that NYPD Blue would pave the way for a more open approach to programming, a more adult, 10 o'clock kind of programming. But there's no question that over the course of the last 10 years, the medium has become increasingly conservative."

Well, either way, I'll miss the drama of Andy Sipowicz and the cops at the 15th Precinct. And I'll switch over to premium cable channels if I'd like a dose of"blue" language and images.

Cross-posted to Notablog.

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Robert Iadone - 4/24/2005

The show's star was Bruce Greenwood and it's due out on DVD this Christmas from David Panzer Productions and Image Entertainment packed with a ton of interviews, commentaries and bonus features.

Definitely a must have for fans of great television.

Chris Matthew Sciabarra - 3/3/2005

Alas, Max... this country has always had a bit of a Puritannical streak, where the erotic is treated as far more threatening than the violent. (Language is a bit more complex: perhaps it depends on the "context" as the FCC says.) Ironically, within the category of the erotic, I think the specifically male erotic is usually treated as even more threatening than the female erotic: you'll see female frontal nudity, and it raises an eyebrow. You'll even see two females kissing in daytime soap operas (like "All My Children") or primetime series (like "The O.C."), but things like sloppy male-male kissing or male frontal nudity are reserved for cable shows like "Six Feet Under" or "Queer as Folk."

Double standard? You bet.

Max Swing - 3/3/2005

So, what they want to say that erotic is more "evil" than bad language or violence?

Pheewwww, I am lucky to live in Germany, then. At least, we have only suggestions for image control (if it is not direct pr0n (misspelling to evade googling)) and not outright censorship.

Jonathan Dresner - 3/3/2005

Precisely. It designates crises (BAR) which are systemic (SN) rather than extraordinary. I would submit the Hans-Hermann Hoppe incident as an example: a serious and unplanned crisis which results from the entirely normal workings of the academic power system and discourse limits (speech codes, tenure, contracts, administrations and grievance procedures), and the resolution of which will in no way prevent the next crisis from arising.

Roderick T. Long - 3/3/2005

> But I ~do~ like SNAFUBAR. It
> is a great way of characterizing
> so many situations

I dunno, the "SN" makes it sound like it's no worse than usual while the "BAR" makes it sound like it is worse than usual.

Jonathan Dresner - 3/2/2005

Thanks! For what it's worth, the crisis which prompted my post has been satisfactorily resolved (though it was touch and go there for a looong time) though the structural issues remain snafubar and new crises are brewing.

Roderick T. Long - 3/2/2005

"Nowhere Man" was kind of like a cross between "The Prisoner," "The Fugitive," and "X-files." The main character one day suddenly finds that a) all record of himself has been erased -- his credit cards don't work, his friends and colleagues don't remember him, etc., and b) mysterious agents seem awfully interested in getting him to hand over the negatives of a photograph he took. So he's constantly on the run from town to town, mailing the negatives to himself at various drop points to avoid being caught with the negatives on him, while the mysterious agents who pursue him use various means to persuade/confuse/brainwash/bribe/intimidate him into handing the negatives over. Along the way he discovers he's somehow stumbled onto some vast shadow government conspiracy, that his past is not what it seems, that his enemies' interest in the negatives is not what it seems, that the negatives themselves are not what they seem ... etc. Anyway, it was a great show, and died too soon.

Chris Matthew Sciabarra - 3/2/2005

Well, okay. Perhaps there is strength in numbers here. But I ~do~ like SNAFUBAR. It is a great way of characterizing so many situations. :)

Jonathan Dresner - 3/2/2005

If they come for me, then you'll know trouble is brewing....

Chris Matthew Sciabarra - 3/2/2005

From the SAVING PRIVATE RYAN "online encyclopedia":

jeez... I hope they don't descend on L&P because I used the F word in my post.

BUT I PUT IT IN QUOTES. I was quoting it, for scholarly purposes. HAVE MERCY ON ME!!! :)

Chris Matthew Sciabarra - 3/2/2005

I remember it... but never saw it. :(

Roderick T. Long - 3/2/2005

Speaking whichly, does anyone remember the great 90s show "Nowhere Man" with Jeff Greenwood? One season, cliffhanger ending, no renewal. Argh!

Roderick T. Long - 3/2/2005

Since "SNAFU" has often been euphemized as "situtation normal, all fouled up," I suppose one could work similar magic on "FUBAR."

Gary McGath - 3/2/2005

"Fubar" (which we spelled "foobar") used to be a popular term among computer types, as a humorous variable name or a generally mild expression of frustration. ("Foobar! The value of FOOBAR is all wrong!") Would we be fined for distributing code which used that variable, I wonder?

Aeon J. Skoble - 3/2/2005

I did see that one, but don't have it on tape, sorry. The only one I didn't see was the second one with Henry Simmons in it.

Chris Matthew Sciabarra - 3/2/2005

pejorative. sorry.

BTW, still no plans to release "The Fugitive" on DVD... but if anybody hears of that, keep us posted. I'm an even BIGGER "Fugitive" junkie. :)

Chris Matthew Sciabarra - 3/2/2005

Yes, I know you didn't mean anything perjorative. hehe... I agree with you completely on all these comments.

And you know, I thought the greatness of this final NYPD BLUE episode was precisely the "organic" quality of it. Exactly as you describe; it's a process that just keeps going on... and we can only imagine what life will be like with Sipowicz as head of the precinct.

So, the one episode I didn't see was this one:

IF ANYBODY SEES THAT SHOW, tape it, or TiVO it. Do something to help an NYPD BLUE junkie. :)

Aeon J. Skoble - 3/2/2005

Chris, I didn't mean anything pejorative in making that contrast -- I was just making it. Some shows have a beginning and an end, some have one but not the other, and some have neither. There's probably examples of each type which are terrific and examples which are awful, but I didn't mean to imply that I disapproved of one type categorically. The Fugitive, for which you know I share your admiration, is one of the best examples of a show having a beginning and an end. Another is of course The Odd Couple. (Friends, though, would be a weaker example of that type.) NYPD Blue had neither a beginning nor an end, and its non-end was IMO very well done. Shows that have a beginning but no end would include anything cancelled abruptly - think the late 80s "The Flash" Shows that have no beginning but do have an end would include Homicide, and the second Bob Newhart (where he's the innkeeper).

Chris Matthew Sciabarra - 3/2/2005

I agree completely with you gents. I've seen every episode of NYPD BLUE except one---which I hope to catch in reruns somewhere.

Re the other shows you mention, Aeon: I am very happy that they did conclude the Kimble adventure on "The Fugitive." It was a great morality tale, with or without that finale, but it would have played like an Existentialist "No Exit" if the One-Armed Man had not been caught. :)

Aeon J. Skoble - 3/2/2005

Yes, it was nice to be thanked. Different from the usual clip-show in that it had fewer clips and more reminsicing from the actors and producers. I liked the approach they took to a series finale -- as one producer put it, life goes on at the 15th, it's just that we won't be seeing it. Many shows have finales that literally close out the situation the show is premised on: Dr. Kimble catches the one-armed man, the Korean War ends, Crockett and Tubbs leave Miami, WJM cancels its news program, Felix reconciles with his wife. The finale of NYPD Blue was more like a season opener - a veteran cast member retires, Andy gets promoted to squad commander, new detectives join the squad -- except that we won't see how any of this plays out. I thought that worked great.

Keith Halderman - 3/2/2005

I thought the one hour special before the last episode was well done. I never saw a show where the actors thanked the audience for watching before, very classy.