The "F" word on TV

Does anyone know who was the first one to say the “F” word on TV. I mean regular over the air TV not cable.

I was just watching Frontline and the girls were singing a song about group sex using the word and I got to wondering?

It’s the one great no-no of network standards and practices. It may have been inadvertantly broadcast in a live news show or documentary, but no dramatic or comedy show would be allowed to say it.

Standards, of course, may change (the first broadcast of the word “Asshole” was during a showing of ANNIE HALL. The network put extra operators on line to handle the complaints, but no one complained about the word; they complained that the reels were shown out of order (they weren’t, but people aren’t used to a nonlinear story)). I doubt that they’d ever let the “F” word go by, but you never know.

mabe the f - word will be said on air.

decades ago, you couldn’t say pregnent. so maybe the f-word will make it.

languange is a funny thing

Really? Just a couple of weeks ago, Australian 60 Minutes did a story on how the f-word and the c-word are perfectly acceptable under australian tv laws, under certain circumstances. They’re all over the late night free to air shows, live or not. It was quite amusing to see the serious old 60 minutes reporter saying “fuck” and “cunt” with a straight face.

Actually, about, oh, ten or so years ago, there was a syndicated program where the language was pretty raw – including ‘fuck’. I disremember the name of it, but it was a cop show set in New Jersey, taped with handheld cameras and available lighting for that verite feel. It was shown in the Los Angeles area on channel 13 after midnight. So far as I know it only lasted the one season. If anybody happens to have a better memory than I do, feel free to jump in…

A cubicle is just a padded cell without a door.

Charlie Rocket sort of stuttered in during a particularly bleak period in Saturday Night Live’s history-- the incident is just about the only thing that season is remembered for. Norm MacDonald also let it drop on the Weekend Update segment of SNL a few years back, a few week before he got fired.

Of course, only those on the East Coast got to hear it; SNL isn’t really “live” to the other US timezones.


“Of course, only those on the East Coast got to hear it; SNL isn’t really “live” to the other US timezones.”

SNL is also live in the Central time zone.

I also remember hearing Cheri Oteri (oh how I’d like to meet her…) uttering the work “shit” as in, “i’ll get you, you little shit” in a skit with her on the front porch of her house. the audience was audibly taken aback at this. she didn’t realize that she’d said it…she was just saying what her character would say…she modeled it after her aunt, i believe…but i digress

Stations (at least radio) can’t get fined if the incident was live, and immediate actions were done to remedy the situation. I remember a story of a radio station interviewing some old time (like Willy Nelson type old time) country star who was either drunk or high right after a concert. In the middle of an answer he just started using swear words in a fashion that he was used to. The radio station cut out of their interview and went to a commercial or something. They were not fined. And news stories are also exempt. I know that at the NPR station here (a moderately sized midwestern university) a story about inner-city utes (i mean youths) had to be edited locally because the national feed included the eloquent language of those interviewed. Technically, you could swear yourself numb (i just made that catch phrase up) after 10pm Eastern or 9pm Central on broadcast TV and radio…safe harbor times. Nothing they could do about it…check out NYPD Blue, if it’s still on.

Saturday Night isn’t “live” in any time zone. They use a tape-delay to prevent such language from airing.

I’ve only ever heard the word on a PBS documentary broadcast by WYCC (We’re Your City Colleges) in Chicago (recently), in a documentary on prison conditions. The inmates interviewed were quite prolific with their language which was obviously not censored or edited in any manner. Shit, fuck, cocksucker, you name it. The rap song they played during the closing credits included the memorable line “C’mere, motherfucker, I’m gonna fuck you up the ass.”

I imagine the station took some flak, but I never saw anything in the papers about the do-gooders raising the kind of stink they do over The Jerry Springer Show for instance.

I think the “Scared Straight” documentary was aired on a big network like 15 or 20 years ago, with f-words a-plenty.

I’ve heard lots of swear words in live television football coverage. They never seem to be able to catch all of them uttered on the playing field. As for radio, 94.9 out of Utica/Syracuse NY had continuous live coverage of Woodstock '99. All live, no bleeping of any of the swear words.

On a recent airing of “Chicago Hope,” Mark Harmon’s character uttered the line, “Shit happens.” The network fed the episode to affiliates early in the day so they could bleep the offending words if they preferred; apparently, none did.

“Scared Straight” re-aired on Fox within the last six months, with all the profanity intact.

“I love God! He’s so deliciously evil!” - Stewie Griffin, Family Guy

I’m not sure what codes are in effect now, but several independent stations I watched back about 10 or 12 years ago used to show uncut/unedited movies all the time. One was in Jacksonville, FL. The other was channel 11 KPLR(?) in St. Louis. These were free stations, but not under network control. My understanding was that it was their option. Other independent stations, for example channel 24 in Memphis, did edit.

I remember taping Death Race 2000 off the St. Louis channel, complete with the nude shots from the massage tables scene.

I think many independent stations were co-opted by Fox, and then WB and UPN. I really don’t know what is going on with editing on truly independent stations nowdays.

Yeah, I was flipping channels a few weeks ago and hit on (I guess it was Fox) and they were playing either the original scared straight or the new one and as Phil said it had all the language used intact. I was very suprised to see this during “prime time”.


I’ve heard it on newsmagazine type programs over the years. The first time I ever heard it on a “real” program was the infamous SNL Charles Rocket line. In boxing matches, the trainers get quite heated between rounds, and I’ve heard it there for years. I also some “hockey guy” (Herb Brooks, maybe) in the 1980 Olympics saying to some player “Shove that GD Coho down his throat.” Someone had to explain to me what a “Coho” was. I’ve also heard the “S” word before. It was used in a “Hill Street” episode, and I heard it one time in some comedy program in the 70’s, I think. I don’t remember what it was, but the skit was some medical situation, and the actor was John Astin.

As a former radio DJ, I can confirm the former statement about language being less restricted after 10 p.m. (on radio anyway, but I don’t see why this couldn’t be the case on TV either). WAll we were told to do was to run a disclaimer before broadcasting anything that might offend after 10 and we had free reign to play whatever the hell we wanted. Lately, I’ve heard stations (especially classic rock) play uncensored versions of songs all day without a disclaimer, most notably Steve Miller’s ‘Jet Ariliner’. Most stations now play the ‘funky shit’ line rather than it’s radio-friendly replacement, ‘funky kicks’. I also know that cable TV doesn’t have to follow the language restrictions at all. They can pretty much broadcast whatever they want. Comedy Central has been known to broadcast ‘shit’ many a time (and bleep out ‘god’, but go figure) and even have “nudity” in the nude beach episode of Bob and Margaret (for those who don’t know the program, it’s a cartoon, hence the quotes).

The character of Lily’s sister spoke “fuck” (as a verb) during last week’s (?) episode, during one of the b/w-talk-to-the-shrink segments. It was the episode where Lily and Rick borrowed her apartment to do the horizontal mambo, and it was in the context of “well, I didn’t know they were going to fuck on my floor.” When she said “fuck” she gave that “am I allowed to say that on ABC at 10pm” look, which was a nice effect.

You are all referring to American television, of course.

I remember well a program on CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corp) TV back in 1971, called “Up Canada”, a dark satirical take on our search for national identity. The host gave a short speech about US-Canada trade relations, and finished up with asking “what do we get out of it? We get fucked!”, simultaneously giving the camera the finger. This was not a live show. I remember it was on fairly early in the evening, as I was 10 years old.

Canadian standards on nudity and profanity on TV are much, much more liberal than in the US. (Which has always struck me as odd–the most powerful nation in the world has such a prissy approach to anything sex-related in mass media.) CBC plays “The Kids in the Hall” in prime time uncut, and also “Larry Sanders” (although this was shown at 11pm, everything was left in. Loved the episode where Hank called Larry’s ex a “cunt.”)

Also, who could forget the Sex Pistols’ “Fuck-fest” on the Terry Wogan show on BBC TV (circa 1976).

Most (though not all) Canadian news programs leave the audio track to demonstrations, riots, etc. uncensored, the attitude being, I guess, “Hey it happened–it’s news.”

I only watch the closed captions but I have seen all the words in the captions. I saw President Bush’s son once use it.

Could anybody give me direct quotes or maybe episode numbers/hosts of these SNL incidences? I’m a pretty regular viewer and I’ve never heard or seen the Norm MacDonald or Charlie Rocket (who is that, a character or something?) ones.

I have heard the F-word used in a couple PBS documentary-type shows. I guess PBS gets a special pass from the FCC.