We live in the golden age of swearing on TV. In today’s television landscape, almost nothing is out of bounds for cable channels. The late, great George Carlin used to have a comedy routine about the seven words you can’t say on television. They were sh**, piss, f***, c***, c***sucker, motherf***er, and tits. Now they’re all pretty commonplace on premium cable networks, and only some of those words still get bleeped out on South Park.
Even broadcast TV is starting to let a few curse words through. But it wasn’t always that way. The latest episode of Vulture’s The Secret History of Television tackles the backstory of swearing on television and explains how we arrived at a time and a place where swearing is not only allowed, it’s expected on cable dramas! As it turns out, Carlin had a large role to play in that, as did Eddie Murphy, South Park, and the rise of original programming on cable.
Among the interesting bits of trivia from the video are the identity of the person who first said “motherf***er” on live TV, as well as one of the few special cases in which the FCC specifically allowed a curse word to stay in a program as aired. In that occasion, the word was actually “motherf***er” as well.
To be sure, there are still many barriers that would have to fall before programs on broadcast TV and basic cable could swear as freely as the ones on premium cable. But in ten to twenty years, who’s to say what swear words are going to be considered more socially acceptable on TV? Not us, motherf***ers!
TV fans, share your favorite TV swearing scenes in the comment section below! And if somebody doesn’t quote Deadwood, then you’ve all missed out on the Shakespeare of swearing, David Milch!