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CBS Whacked By Tony; Edits 'Ad-Libbed' Profanity

CBS had to edit the West Coast feed of its broadcast of the Tony awards Sunday night after a profanity slipped through.

Somebody at CBS was apparently slow on the button Sunday night at the tail end of a bit by John Mahoney and Jane Krakowski during CBS's broadcast of the show.

As Mahoney (Martin Crane in Frasier) and Krakowski (Ally McBeal) were exiting the stage, still in character, he used the phrase "goddamn," followed by what appeared to be a second or two of dead air,as though someone were slow on the button. All networks now have delays on live awards show broadcasts with an eye toward blanking out the kind of language that could draw FCC ire.

"It was an unwelcomed ad-lib," said a CBS spokeswoman, "and not part of the script." The phrase was  edited out for the West Coast feed," she said, but she also pointed out that the show was rated "L" for language, "so that any homes concerned about language would have blocked" the show. The V-chip/ratings system allows sets equipped with the technology to screen out shows according to descriptors for sex, language, and violence.

The FCC's stepped-up indecency enforcement against language was dealt a blow last week by a federal court, which said the commission had not justified its policy of policing fleeting expletives--notably in the Golden Globes on NBC and the Billboard Music Awards on Fox, 

But the court was reinign the commission in for going beyond years of precedent on profanity, traditionally defined as blasphemy, to target sexual and scatalogical references. While those references can be fleetingly flung with relative impugnity for now, blasphemy falls under the FCC's longstanding definition of language it can regulate, though its fleeting nature could also be a mitigating circumstance.

Ironically,Mahoney was arguably on the show to make it more TV friendly. TV stars from Law & Order, Desperate Housewives, Frasier, House, American Idol and more were clearly chosen as presenters with an eye toward linking Broadway and prime time.

Broadway, of course, has never been under the same restrictions as TV, so actors could talk like sailors on shore leave instead of people working off scripts approved by standards and practices with an eye toward Washington. 

There were repeated uses of "bitch" in a later production number, "The Bitch of Living" that were allowed to pass through unmolested, though an "ass" appeared to have been scrubbed from the same song.