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Sponsors Won't Punish $#*! for Bad Language, Will for Bad Ratings

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I’m not going to pretend you didn’t see this coming, but the Parents Television Council has called on advertisers to boycott CBS sitcom $#*! My Dad Says, based on the Twitter feed shitmydadsays and the subsequent book. “Unless or until CBS chooses a different title for this program, we are urging advertisers to avoid sponsoring such an abomination purported to be lighthearted fun,” says PTC President Tim Winter. “Either they can be complicit in the effort to serve up excrement in front of children and families, or they can choose not to associate their products and services with excrement.”

Reports Adweek, advertisers so far do not seem moved to act on the PTC’s boycott call, saying that their ad-buy decisions will be based on how well the show does. Which means sponsors may be more influenced not by outcry over the title but by initial signs that the show—whose pilot was screened for critics and advertisers but is being reshot—looks, well, kind of $#*!!y:

“It is certainly not one of the most anticipated programs of the season,” said one buyer who has seen the pilot. “It is another sitcom with an interesting title.”

I can’t say I share the PTC’s outrage on this one, but I do see their point. I’m a strong believer that there’s nothing wrong with networks making shows that are appropriate for kids and shows that are only appropriate for adults, and letting parents decide for their own kids—not mine—which category a given show falls into. A title of a new show, though, is a hard thing to opt out of: it’s in commercials, in media, on billboards. If there’s one thing I think parents have a legitimate complaint about, it’s the atmospheric content—especially in advertising—that you can’t necessarily avoid by changing a channel, using a V-chip or getting TiVo.

That said, the title does bleep the implied profanity, which, if anything, reinforces the idea that the word is taboo and not appropriate for all audiences. Yes, it reflects a society where casual profanity is more common—and is a cheap publicity tactic on top of it. As a parent, you have to explain lots of things to your kids that you don’t want to, but I don’t blame someone for being ticked off that CBS gave them the extra unwanted job of explaining what “$#*!” stands for.

If people want to vote with their dollars to protest that, fine, but ultimately you can’t expect society to structure itself around the moral standards of your own home; you have to set them within your own home. Which I don’t pretend is an easy or understandable process. I somehow managed to have two kids who are not comfortable saying “Hell” as the literal place-name for the site of eternal punishment in some systems of the afterlife—despite the torrents that pour from my mouth when I cut my thumb in the kitchen.

We’ll have to see if the ratings will end up doing the PTC’s work for it on this one. One thing’s for sure: if this show is cancelled fast, I’m going to regret all the time I spent memorizing the proper punctuation sequence for the word $#*!.