Sunday, February 27, 2005

Things you can't say on television

Posted By on Sun, Feb 27, 2005 at 10:31 AM

This season of Saturday Night Live may be particularly dire (despite the herculean efforts of Amy Poehler, bless her), but, lacking anything resembling a social life, I've been getting a kick out of the "classic" episodes NBC has been airing at midnight. Last night was the big one: the very first episode, from October 11, 1975.

It was interesting to see all the elements that fell away over the years: the Muppets, the second musical guests, many of the filmed bits. It was much more an old-fashioned variety show at the start. But most striking was something host George Carlin said. No, he didn't drop the f-bomb or any of the other seven words you can't say on television -- the ones that will, as he once noted, "infect your soul, curve your spine and keep the country from winning the war."

No, what he did was several minutes of material on the nature of God. He gently suggested that God might have been made in the image of man, that God might have physical limits, even that God might not want to hear prayers on Sunday, which happens to be his day off -- and that it is presumptuous for humans like him to speak for God anyway.

You still won't hear any of Carlin's seven dirty words on broadcast TV, but now there are certain ideas you won't hear either.


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