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Does Bleeping Out Naughty Comedy on TV Sell DVD?

20 Jan, 2004 By: Holly J. Wagner

I think the cable networks may finally have discovered the ultimate weapon against home recording of shows: censorship.

I understand their need to keep prime-time programming clean enough for family viewing, but there has to be a limit.Over the weekend, I watched a couple of standup comedy shows on Viacom’s Comedy Central channel.

A few of these shows survived intact, but an astonishing number of them had visuals or sounds bleeped out.

I was a little surprised when one comedienne’s physical comedy included flipping the audience off, and the channel — perhaps at the insistence of my satellite provider, DirecTV — pixellated the obscene, although commonplace, gesture so home viewers wouldn’t be able to see it.

But by far the worst massacre of any program I have seen on the channel to date was Saturday’s broadcast of "Queens of Comedy," a 79-minute revue of female African-American standup comics.

Admittedly, the program, directed by Spike Lee and starring comics Miss Laura Hayes, Adele Givens, Sonmore and Mo’Nique, is a bit raunchy. But whoever was doing the audio bleeping on this program got completely out of control, obliterating so much of some routines that there was no point in watching the show at all unless the viewer was skilled in lip reading.

Now, this was prime time in California, but it was the East Coast feed, so it would have been showing as a late-night program back east.

I couldn’t help wondering: Is this a ploy to keep the channel in a basic cable/satellite subscription package? A new trend in family-ifying entertainment that was intended for a more mature audience? A teasing infomercial for the DVD?

The title has been available from Paramount Home Entertainment since Feb. 27, 2001, for $24.99. I didn’t see the overlay, crawler or spot for the title on DVD during the time I spent watching.

Personally, if I like a comedy program that is available on DVD, I will get it so I can watch it more than once. Comedy is a uniquely social event that lets us communicate with like-minded friends. More than with feature films, my brothers and I — as with most people, I suspect — pick up lines from routines we all like and use them to communicate in a form of shorthand or to reflect on experiences we shared growing up.

The editing completely destroyed the program, so I had to change the channel. With these cuts, it was just too much like watching a train wreck.

I don’t know what’s going on with Comedy Central (please write to me if you notice cable providers doing the same thing with this or any other channel), but intentionally or accidentally, it looks to me like a great pitch for the DVD.

By nature, we are creatures drawn to the forbidden. If I had this disc in rental stock, there’s a good chance I would promote it with some type of shelftalker advertising that it is the version you won’t see on TV.

Dangle that forbidden fruit, and I’ll bet people will pay to see it.

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