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PBS is CHURCH when it comes to Carlin


During PBS's Q&A session Wednesday for its upcoming broadcast of the Kennedy Center's Mark Twain Prize for comedy, recently bestowed on the late George Carlin, one critic wanted to know about the whole Carlin-bleeping thing. Recorded Carlin was bleeped during the KenCen ceremony and will also be during the broadcast. The critic wondered, correctly, why they honored "the dirty word guy" if they won't show him using his, um, "dirty" words. You can see his point.

"I learned a long time ago that if you're in a church, you don't do certain things," comic/actor Richard Belzer responded primly. Belzer was on the panel and was among those who had paid tribute to Carlin at the KenCen ceremony.

"If you're in someone's home, you don't do certain things," Belzer added for good measure. "If the philosophy of the network is to not offend people who they think might be offended, I don't think this hurts the show." This seems a great argument for moving the Mark Twain Prize to Comedy Central, but that's another story.

But Belzer wasn't through with the subject yet; in fact he was just warming up:

"George Carlin is so brilliant, his use of language is [so] vast and compelling that a few bleeps might even be enticing," he continued.

We will call this Belzer's Defense of Censorship.

And George Carlin rolled over in his grave.

"It goes beyond the network -- it's the law," the broadcast's exec producer Peter Kaminsky jumped in to add. "The Supreme Court will come down on you heavy...One of the legacies of George is he started something in the Supreme Court and....30 years later, we're still arguing about it. It's very much on the front burner, and we hope to see that change in a new administration."

"Oh, yeah, THAT's going to change," snickered comic Lewis Black, also on the panel, also part of the KenCen ceremony.

"My dad's view on this was that if you actually bleep the words, they become dirtier," chimed in Carlin's daughter, Kelly Carlin McCall. "It's a beautiful irony, for me. I just find it very strange."

By Lisa de Moraes  |  January 8, 2009; 12:44 PM ET
Categories:  Winter TV Press Tour 2009  
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