Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The sitcom that dare not speak its (real) name

When CBS turned the popular Twitter page Shit My Dad Says into a William Shatner sitcom for next season, they posed a conundrum for themselves and other language prudes like the New York Times -- what to call the show and the Twitter page that inspired it. Can Captain Kirk really talk shit? Apparently not.
The biggest surprise on next season’s CBS schedule is a sitcom tentatively called “Bleep My Dad Says,” not just because its title disguises an expletive, but because it was inspired by a page on Twitter.

Yes, the anyone-can-make-media spirit of the Web has made it to prime-time network television, and probably not in the form Internet tycoons would have predicted. The CBS show inspired by a popular Twitter page — whose actual name is decidedly more profane than the “Bleep” title — is an old-fashioned, multicamera, studio audience comedy . . .
The book is also clothed in euphemism in publishing circles. The publisher calls it Sh*t My Dad Says, which at least makes it pretty clear what the title is. This is apparently much too explicit for the NYT, whose best-seller list shows it as **** My Dad Says, thus giving Justin's Dad a near infinite vocabulary of possible four-letter swear words.

It's a real tempest in a teacup for delicate sensibilities. Maintaining an elevated tone in newspapers and on network television sort of made sense when they were, or at least thought they were, arbiters of what constituted acceptable public discourse. But those days are long gone.

At a time when vernacular, spoken English and written English are rapidly converging on the web, these rearguard actions by self-proclaimed language police just seem hypocritical and ineffectual. And funny.

1 comment:

Cybergabi said...

One of my photos was published last year in a book called It looks like a c**k!, along with a variety of other rather innocent photos of nature's, designers' and urbanity's Freudian slips. As far as my English-as-a-foreign-language goes, a cock in its original sense of the word is a rooster. Thus even more prude.

That was a UK publication though.