Michael Douglas has stage four throat cancer.
In bravely talking about it on the David Letterman show this week, he was asked by Letterman whether the doctors had found it “early enough for their liking.” His immediate answer: “I sure as shit hope so.”
Having had a loved one once face a diagnoses of a deadly cancer, fortunately in an earlier stage, I know how absolutely accurate and appropriate to the situation all the words in that statement were.
CBS edited the “shit” out of his statement, even though it was after midnight (broadcasters are free to air profanity and nudity between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., though virtually no one ever does). CBS did so either because it is better to be safe than sorry or because they believe that violates their own internal standards (a CBS spokesperson said it was the latter). Either way (and it may not be an either/or scenario), I would respectfully disagree with that decision.
If there were ever a time that the word “shit” belonged in a sentence unexpurgated, that was it. Well, that and CBS’ airing of the unedited first responders swearing in the maelstrom of 9/11 in a documentary several years back. Sadly, some affiliates felt they had to self-edit that broadcast in the wake of the FCC’s indecency crackdown. Of course, it is ironic the word “shit” is basically in the title of a new CBS comedy, based on a Twitter feed called “Shit My Dad Says.” The network is calling the series Bleep My Dad Says when mentioned via voice and using punctuation marks to replace the s-word in printed form.
If CBS’ (and others) internal standards are in any way a byproduct of the last few years of the FCC’s regulatory pursuit of speech and nudity, including examining babies’ behinds for evidence of pacifiers, then it is all the argument any court needs for doing something about the fleeting indecency enforcement regime there. As recently as an airing last week, a woman on Antiques Roadshow was covering up the naughty bits of a statue and pointing out that they couldn’t be seen on air.
At least CBS can use the Letterman edit to counter criticisms that it’s out to be indecent 24/7.
I would argue that even if Michael Douglas had been talking on TV before 10 p.m., opening up about a devastating blow and perhaps encouraging somebody to get their sore throat checked out today rather than next week, he should be allowed to express the full force of his hope for recovery.
Is Michael Douglas going to beat this disease? I sure as shit hope so.
Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.
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