Flags Keep Dropping on Super Bowl Stunt
"They were nervous long before the couple of things that happened just in the last few days," Davis said of ABC.
"Part of what they're worried about is that bill in Congress that would increase the financial penalties [for broadcasting an 'indecency'] tenfold; they're terrified of this. I can imagine the kind of pressure the network is feeling and it's all very well for us to take a noble First Amendment approach, but if this bill is passed and run through by February 29" -- the date of the Oscars -- "we might be exposing them to some horrendous amount of money . . . we have to recognize that."
The Academy Awards have never had a delay for censoring content. "It was just a feeling that the absolute liveness on both coasts was part of the appeal. And the slippery slope -- if you start to allow somebody else to have a little bit of control, where does it all end?" said Davis.
The academy board voted Tuesday night and decided by "a strong majority" not to oppose ABC if it implemented the delay. Asked why ABC was starting the five-second delay on the Oscarcast now, a network rep said, "It really is kind of 'Why not now?' It's the smart and responsible thing to do." She noted that ABC's policy has been to have a five-second delay on live entertainment events, except for the Academy Awards.
And, over at the NFL, they've gone into full "I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on at Rick's" mode, canceling boytoy Chasez's halftime performance at this weekend's Pro Bowl in Hawaii because they've discovered that his song "Blowing Me Up" is suggestive and that the choreography might also be suggestive.
"In light of what happened Sunday night with the Super Bowl halftime show we took a close look at what was planned for the Pro Bowl and decided to make a change," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello told The TV Column. Chasez's song "included some very suggestive lyrics and we didn't think it was appropriate in light of the current situation. So we decided to move the pre-game show to halftime."
And over at Warner Bros. Television, after receiving assurances of support from NBC entertainment and news president Jeff Zucker, producers of "ER" were surprised to learn yesterday that the breast-revealing scene would be cut. According to a source, NBC affiliates went over Zucker's head to complain that in view of the Jackson incident they believed that they would get a big fat indecency fine direct from Washington if they aired a split-second corner shot during a 10 p.m. medical drama in which an 80-year-old woman's shirt is ripped off so doctors can give her emergency treatment.
"In consultation with our Affiliate Board we have asked 'ER' to remove [the] shot," the General Electric division said in a statement. "Though we continue to believe the shot is appropriate and in context, and would have aired after 10:30 p.m. Eastern and Pacific time, we have unfortunately concluded that the atmosphere created by this week's events has made it too difficult for many of our affiliates to air this."
"ER" executive producer John Wells responded angrily in a statement: "While the unexpected exposure of Ms. Jackson's breast during the Super Bowl Half-Time Show was inappropriate and deplorable on a broadcast intended for viewers of all ages, 'ER's' incidental exposure of an elderly woman's breast in the context of a medical trauma is not comparable."
Wells told The TV Column he thinks that the shot "lends that sense of seeing someone who is vulnerable in a way that is important to the overall narrative of the piece -- their loneliness, dislocation and loss of privacy."
In his statement, he noted that "adult viewing audiences at 10 p.m., who have been warned appropriately of a show's adult content, are more than capable of making the distinction and adjusting their viewing habits accordingly. These types of affiliate overreactions have a chilling effect on the narrative integrity of adult dramas."
Asked whether he would at least get a good episode of his fantasy White House drama "The West Wing" out of this headache, Wells laughed and responded: "I think you should assume this will come up soon in some of the other shows we are involved with."
In a parting shot, he noted that "this type of network behavior is one of the primary reasons that so many of today's producers and viewers are increasingly turning to HBO and other cable outlets that do not censor responsible story telling."
ESPN has canceled its first scripted series, "Playmakers," and the show's creator says it was the NFL's doing.
The cable sports network announced yesterday that the drama series about a pro football team, which the NFL blasted for its sometimes unflattering portrayal of players, will not return for a second season despite record ratings for ESPN.
"Many considerations went into this decision, not the least of which was the reaction from a longtime and valued partner," ESPN executive Mark Shapiro said in a statement. He was referring to the NFL, with which ESPN has a $4.8 billion contract to televise its Sunday night games.
Shapiro told The Post's John Maynard yesterday that the final decision was solely ESPN's. The NFL "did not put a gun to our head," he said.
The NFL in a statement said the cancellation "was an ESPN decision and now we can all move on."
But "Playmakers" creator and executive producer John Eisendrath said: "The NFL canceled the show. Implicitly or explicitly, [the NFL] let it be known that the future of football on ESPN and [corporate parent] ABC hinged on the decision that they made about 'Playmakers,' " he told Maynard.
"This is an example of censorship. There is no way to sugarcoat it."
The series, which premiered in August, averaged 2 million viewers a week, a 300 percent increase from ESPN's average in the same time slot the previous year.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company