They’ll Never Put That On The Air

We ran across an interesting new book the other day called "They’ll Never Put That On The Air:  An Oral History Of Taboo-Breaking TV Comedy" by Allan Neuwirth." 

Going back to the very earliest days of television, it recalls a time when married couples didn’t sleep in the same bed on television and words like "sex" and "pregnant" were never said.  "Hell" and "damn" were never said in sit-coms for that matter, either.  In the book, the producers and talent of TV sit-coms and other shows tell their censorship stories in their own words, from "The Dick Van Dyke Show" to "Seinfeld."

One of the more interesting chapters is called "Smothering The Brothers."  It recounts the censorship battles between CBS and the Smothers Brothers.  CBS thought it was getting a family-friendly act in the brothers.  Their comedy variety show in the 60’s wasn’t so much too "dirty" as too political for Richard Nixon’s America.  Eventually, the brothers lost the war to stay on the air, but it probably helped their careers to no end in the long run.

A few years ago I interviewed the Smothers Brothers.  Clearly, they (Tommy, especially) still enjoyed talking about their very public battle with the network.  Tom’s attitude was "keep the controversy going as long as possible."  There’s no such thing as bad publicity.

They autographed the form letter CBS sent to my wife Ginny when she protested their cancellation.  The brothers said they’d never seen a copy of it before.


The Smothers Brothers will be appearing at the Spirit Lake Casino near Devils Lake in September.  They also perform their version of the "world’s dirtiest joke" in "The Aristocrats" movie on DVD. 

1 Response

  1. wanderer

    It wasnt called the golden age of television for nothing. Writers were creative. Every member of the family could watch.
    What is the formula for todays television? What brings ratings and success? If art truly imitates life, then we are in big trouble.

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