The Mythical Banned Episode

Via: The Golem Universe

During a quick perusal of my favourite bookmarks this morning before I began typing this, I read a remarkable post over on Fred Seibert’s Blog concerning a “banned” episode of the hit show Dexter’s Laboratory. Apparently even Fred didn’t know about it, so he called up the one and only Genndy Tartakovsky (someday maybe I too will have a famous person in my phonebook [sigh]).

As it turns out, it does exist and wasn’t broadcast because of the amount of (bleeped) swearing. Now what the swear words were, I do not know. I doubt they were the really serious kind although they probably weren’t suitable for a an audience of children.

Which leads us to the whole mystery of so-called banned episodes of shows. Why would an episode be “banned”? Why would the creators even be allowed to make the episode in the first place, if there is even a slight chance that it wouldn’t make it to air?

It’s hard to tell. Sometimes a script will appear OK but once it is finished, it might seem worse. A more likely culprit is that the people directly supervising the show are fine with it but once someone higher up sees it, they might use their superior executive powers to veto its broadcast.

Some people wonder how a company can afford to lock-up these episodes, especially considering that animation is not the cheapest form of production. The reality is that one episode does not a series make and the company will often take the hit because if the episode were broadcast, it could face untold fines from the FCC. Remember the whole Janet Jackson SuperBowl™ incident? Yeah, we all had a good laugh at that in Europe; the lawsuits are still ongoing over here. That pretty much speaks for itself.

The rumour-mill also seems to have this ability of elevate such episodes to near mythological status among fans. Titbits of information here and there is often interpolated to mean that it is the most awesome episode ever in a holy grail kind of way. Of course once these episodes eventually make their way onto the airways or internets, they are of no better quality than the ones that were broadcast.

The interesting thing is that when people call a show or episode “banned” today, they really mean that it simply wasn’t broadcast by the network. This is not the same as being banned. In the past (and especially for those poor folks in a non-free country) a banned piece of property or information meant that you were not supposed to have it under any circumstances and you were likely facing some jail time if you were caught.

Ditto for many old cartoons considered “banned” today. A few examples come to mind in the form of Coal Black and De Seben Swarfs, which is due for potential release next year, Song of the South, which is not really considered “banned” but is widely known to be a regrettable reminder of the past for the Walt Disney Co. Contemporary examples include the aforementioned Dexter episode as well as numerous South Parks and Family Guys.

Another aspect to consider is that all of these were withdrawn by their respective studios/parent corporations. None were deemed by the government to be offensive (although during the war years, the government did air concerns about the vulgarity of some of the shorts emanating from Hollywood and Termite Terrace).

In the grand scheme of things, “banned” episodes of TV shows are rareity, although they are far more prevalent in the US as a result of the diversity of the population and the relatively strict nature of broadcast regulations. Sometimes they really are worth trying to see, but it is good to remember that they are often over-rated and have often hidden away for good reason. Having said that, I kind of would like to see Dexter cursing now 🙂

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