Flipping channels through a stupor of boredom on Sunday night, I ran across "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire." I have seen all the Potter movies, read all the Potter books. While I think the books are by far the best of the two, I still enjoyed the movies. So I stayed on "Goblet of Fire."
About an hour into the movie, which was airing on the Syfy network, I realized something: There weren't any words edited out for being unsuitable or obscene. Every word in the film was the same as it was in the theater.
Now I'm not someone who objects strenuously to bad words. I've been known to throw out tirades dotted by several less-than-savory words and phrases. I'm actually quite accomplished at it. But I hate watching a movie on TV that has been edited to remove those words, although I understand completely why they've been taken out, especially on a non-cable network.
When certain words are censored, though, it removes you from the moment. For a second, you quit watching what's happening and think, "Oh, they cut out that word." It's a bit jarring, especially if you've seen the film before.
In another channel-flipping moment, I came across "Die Hard" during the scene where Bruce Willis' character is speaking for the first time to Alan Rickman's bad guy over walkie-talkies. The scene ends with Willis' saying, "Yippee-ki-yay ." and backing out through a door. It's an iconic line from an iconic film and the last word was gone.
I've even seen Quentin Tarantino movies listed on network TV and some cable networks that edited such films. Are you kidding me? A Tarantino movie with no cuss words would pretty much be a silent film. If you go to a Tarantino movie, you know what you're getting; his near-poetic use of coarse language is a trademark. So why even show one of his films if you're aware of that?
Like the "Harry Potter" films, there are plenty of films that are suitable for regular TV and still are great. The "Star Wars" canon is one example. Of course, Pixar films like "Toy Story" and the "Despicable Me" series are another (if I see "Minions" while flipping channels, I'll stop and watch it every time). Classic films like "On the Waterfront" or "Dr. Strangelove" or "To Kill a Mockingbird" are on the list.
If you're a TV network, all you have to do is use some common sense. Try it sometime.
Contact Shawn Ryan at firstname.lastname@example.org.