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Monday, July 28, 2014

TV sitcoms' language goes down the gutter

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

My television-viewing habits would best be described as eclectic.

Sprinkled between the never-ending news cycles and the obligatory sports menu, I find welcome escape with sitcoms.

Sitcoms are like popcorn - light, non-filling and easily consumed.

Talk of deficits, wars and political stalemates all seem to evaporate for a brief, 30-minute snack on a sitcom diet.

And given the state of modern society, a good sitcom belly-laugh is just what the doctor ordered.

I won't bore you with my sitcom rituals, but I tend to follow the primetime favorites that dominate the Nielsen ratings.

But this past week, I was shocked and disappointed with the growing trend toward the use of the F-bomb on some of my favorite light-hearted sitcoms.

I am far from the definition of a prude. But it's not prudery to cringe at the salty language during kid-friendly primetime sitcoms.

OK, so you can make the argument that if I dislike the language, I am free to switch channels. And I accept that argument.

But looking at the larger picture, is this a reflection of the current state of society or does society tend to follow the mass media's lead?

"Up All Night" and "The Office" - two popular and truly funny sitcoms - both dropped the F-bomb during programs last week. Just the week before, the use of the F-bomb by a child character was the theme of "Modern Family."

Here's the point. These programs are entertaining without resorting to gutter language during primetime. Is it just laziness by the writers or do they seek to push the envelope until there are no longer any restrictions on content?

Reality shows like the "Real Housewives" and "Bad Girls" no longer have the monopoly on the F-bomb. But I expect that tone from those shows and, thus, I pass them by.

But sitcoms are a tad bit different. And yes, there is the argument that my granddaughters could well be in front of a television during primetime and be subjected to language that is clearly age-inappropriate.

If we want a society reduced to the lowest common denominator, then full speed ahead. Does television reflect the language of the street or does the street mimic the language of Hollywood?

Comedian George Carlin once penned a scathing routine on the seven words you could not use on television. That list is rapidly being reduced.

One final twist of sick irony. The television censors will permit taking the Lord's name in vain but exclude other descriptions of bodily functions.

How did we get here? And more importantly, how do we find our way home?

Michael Jensen

Michael Jensen
Michael Jensen