In goofing on Donald Trump’s crude sex talk with Billy Bush, “Saturday Night Live” did what many news outlets (including this one) declined to do: It used the same foul word Trump did.
Alec Baldwin, in his second go-round as Trump, dropped an uncensored p-bomb during Saturday’s opening segment of the late-night NBC show, playing the GOP nominee as fairly unrepentant about his 2005 remarks and willing to “ablogize” but not apologize.
While that word occasionally is said on TV in describing a cat, a wimpy person or a Russian punk band, using it to refer to the female anatomy, as Baldwin did, is pretty much unprecedented on broadcast TV.
NBC declined to comment, but “SNL” scripts are known to be carefully vetted by the network’s standards executives, and Baldwin no doubt had NBC’s blessing to repeat Trump’s profanity.
The utterance — demonstrating either free expression or moral breakdown, depending on your perspective — further illustrates the relaxing of standards of language on broadcast TV, where certain words verboten in the 1970s and ’80s have become commonplace.
“There’s no question that some of the policies and rules and words that we use have changed over the years because society has changed,” NBC standards chief Alan Wurtzel told the Washington Post earlier this year.
It’s a different story on cable, where the vocabulary always has been anything-goes on pay channels and generally naughtier on basic cable. Amy Schumer’s team famously used a gender equality argument to get basic-cable Comedy Central to allow her to use Trump’s preferred label in a sexual way, saying that if graphic terms for male genitalia were OK, the female ones should be too. Uncensored p-words are now a staple of “Inside Amy Schumer.”
Unlike the cable channels, the over-the-air networks are subject to government regulation of their content, but only on programming before 10 p.m. So “Saturday Night Live” is off the hook. The show gets away with whatever NBC will tolerate — or thinks its advertisers will tolerate — and the network leaves itself a lot of latitude.
“A lot of people feel that in my drawer is a list of words that you can say or that you can’t say,” NBC’s Wurtzel told the Post. “And that’s just not true.”