A decade ago, broadcast network executives might have moaned that they couldn’t do a show like HBO’s “Sopranos” -- but would like to. Might that have been a comment about content -- as well as language?
A number of ad-supported, basic-cable networks now regularly use profanity in their dramas – in everything from AMC’s “Breaking Bad” to USA Network’s “Suits” to TNT’s “Major Crimes.”
For many, though, it’s not a case of cable show producers gone wild. There are sill limits. NPR says AMC, for example, actually has an “f” word quota for “Breaking Bad,” with the word being acceptable a certain number of times per season.
Cable networks want to grow their audiences by having their shows remain edgy and not curtailing the creative visions of producers. Could it be that still-sensitive advertisers -- who also buy big-time dramas on broadcast networks -- are close at hand?
We know the rules: Broadcast stations and networks can’t air profanity - period. But basic cable networks, which look a lot like broadcast networks, can. Do viewers know the difference? Probably more so when comparing, say HBO, to NBC.
Some believe cable programs have gone too far, especially with violent, emotional, and perhaps inappropriate content. An example of the latter might be the premiere episode of FX’s “Sons of Anarchy,” with a school shooting, a prison rape, and a man being urinated on.
For shows to be successful now, they need more niche, and hopefully more engaged, audiences. Freedom of choice, protection for kids, diversity of creative content are all discussions that will continue to knock into each other.