Tuesday, April 17, 2007

What's your favorite S&P note?

(S&P, BS&P, B&E, legal clearance...y'know, "the censor.")

It's been over two years since we got this one, and it's beome a "house number." We only have to mention the punch-line to relive it:

In an episode in which a character was to play an onerous number of practical jokes (a subject I now refuse to write about), we had him place a "kick me" sign on someone's the back. Not a brilliant bit, but the 22-minute episode needed about fifteen practical jokes. This proved really hard in the harsh light of the "Imitable Behavior" bugaboo.

S&P reminded us that we don't want to encourage violent behavior. "Perhaps the sign could read 'Tickle Me'." Tickle Me. The writers slapped "Tickle Me" post-it's on each other's back all day long after that.

If you're ever pitching episodes to me, don't even try "The Practical Joke episode" it can't work nowadays. We wanted to have a birthday cake frosted with toothpaste--couldn't do it. Money glued to the ground--defacing currency.

Then there's a flip-side to this: all the things you wrote when you only meant the thing you wrote--yet you get the note about a more-obscene variation of your scene which you were not obscene enough to have even thought of.

Pretty much every writer for the tween audience I've ever met takes their obligation to the kid audience seriously, and doesn't want to show the charagter burning himself alive with gasoline--because what self-respecting kid wouldn't want to at least try that if they saw it on TV. Most writers I know laugh at the constant implication that we have a secret agenda of corrupting the audience.

Sure, there are the rare occasions where scripts are turned in with the attitude of "Hey, it's funny, it's on the line, let's see what the studio thinks." Still, I'll bet every writer reading this has met the Unbelievable S&P Note.

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

Working on a boys action show. In the teaser a ND character is attacked by a mysterious force, we later discover that he was killed (but we never see this, only hinted at). This starts the mystery for the heroes of the series to investigate.

This story start went through a slew of notes, de-evolving the action to where at the end, the ND character is only "roughed up, but not really hurt"... and then a line of comedy was asked for to "soften the harshness"... So it ends with the character attacked by some lame force, thrown to the ground, comically coughing and saying, "Aaak, I swallowed my gum!"

Ugh...

Marty said...

Can't say I disagreed with this note, but it still makes me laugh out loud.

When I first stumbled into this business, I was a temp at the then-just-starting-up, now-defunct Fox Kids Network. This BS&P note came in over the fax machine (remember those?) for the show Tom & Jerry Kids:

Please change the following line: "Look what we got here... a no-good stinky pussy!"

I still have the fax stashed away in a file drawer somewhere. Someday I may frame it.

Naturally Disgruntled said...

"Please refrain from using the Cowardly Lion in this script. He is constantly soliciting violence by encouraging other characters to 'put 'em up'. This is unacceptable imitatable behavior and not kid-appropriate."

I just...wow. Ok.

Steve said...

From Danny Phantom:

We were doing an episode where one of the characters rolled her eyes and said "Oh, please kill me."

I had just watched a Drake and Josh (I watch shows on the networks I work on for a variety of reasons, but partly so I can know what I can get away with) where a character had said "Oh, please kill me."

I was given the note to not have the cartoon character say that, and was told by the exec that "Different shows have different standards."

My point: "NO! THEY HAVE TO HAVE THE SAME STANDARDS! THAT'S WHY THEY CALL IT STANDARDS!"

Matt Wayne said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Matt Wayne said...

Not an S&P note, but a dumb network note: I'd written a line for Static Shock! that had Static threatening to "taser your tuchas." The network insisted that Static would never say "tuchas." Or "tushie," which was my next try. Static has better than average verbal skills and lives in an American city, presumably cheek-by-jowl with Jews and at the very least with a television. But the network was adamant.

Not to mention, I used to edit the Static comic book and was handing the script in Story Editor Dwayne, who had created Static. I had a fair handle on his vocabulary.

I think the word was changed to "butt," which is flavorless by comparison.

Marty said...

Matt,

Standards and Practices has requested that we remove all reference to "flavorless butts" (presumably so as not to offend those with flavorFULL butts).

Matt Wayne said...

Doral? I remember their jingle, "taste me, I'm the butt that tastes good," something like that.

Matt Wayne said...

Heh. Not that I'm old enough to remember cigarette ads on the radio.

Anonymous said...

Considering some of your scripts for FOP, I'd say the S & P boys are a bunch of slackers. In one of your "comic gems", a husband is disappointed his wife wasn't stabbed to death, saying "Well, there go my dating plans". He's also shown leering at other women, including his wife's sister. And this obvious hilarity was written for a children's show. How did it get by? Guess the S & P boys decided to trust you that it was funny, the silly rabbits...

Steve said...

Was wondering when you'd make it over here from Toonzone, "anonymous."

No worries. Welcome aboard.

christymarx said...

One of my favorites was when I was story editing/writing Conan the Adventurer. Conan was in Stygia, land of the serpentmen, his mortal enemies. He gets into a fight and throws a serpentman out the window of a store (no glass, of course).

The note was, "Please make sure this is an evil storefront."

Anonymous said...

On Mickey Mouseworks, we had a cartoon of Donald Duck getting stuck in the rapids in a canoe. Disney S&P (the strictest I've ever encountered) insisted he wear a life preserver. We argued that as "a duck", Donald doesn't need a life preserver. He's an aquatic fowl. It was great because it opened up this great debate about just how human Donald is.

On Lilo & Stitch the series, Lilo was a maladjusted imp and prone to outbusts of colorful language so S&P got to the point where they budgeted the use of the word "Butt" in the series. I believe it was allowed only once every 2-3 episodes. Stitch, however, he could curse a blue streak in his alien tongue.