Over on Cartoon Brew, the fine website he operates with Jerry Beck, Amid Amidi has posted this message in which he says...
It's easy to make fun of TV animation execs, but it's even easier to make fun of the twits who work at the networks' Broadcast
Standards & Practices divisions. These low-lifes have done more to ruin TV animation and suck fun and entertainment out of cartoons as anybody
else has since the Seventies. Speak to anybody who has worked in TV animation and they're likely to have countless stories about the inane changes
and arbitrary cuts that S&P people like to make.
He's right, and I certainly have as many of those stories as anyone. However, whenever anyone dumps on Broadcast Standards, I feel I
should toss in my own observation that one of the main reasons they get away with mauling our stuff that way is that producers let them. When I've
worked on live-action TV shows and the Standards folks handed me a list of fourteen changes, I could always talk them out of at least half and it
didn't even take a lot of effort or debating skills. On the remaining alterations they demanded, it was usually possible to work out minor
alterations that retained what I wanted to retain but satisfied their complaints. And, truth be told, I often decided that a change was immaterial or
even that they were right. I didn't like the process at all but it was certainly possible to minimize the damage.
Alas, some of the animation producers for whom I worked over the years didn't like to fight, perhaps didn't want to fight. When I was
story-editing Richie Rich, Bill Hanna was always rushing to move episodes from the script/storyboard stage into the layout/animation phase.
The worry was usually not that a show might not get finished by its air date but rather, that there might be artists on staff with nothing to do. If
production was behind on Super-Friends (let's say), Hanna would give that show's crew Richie Rich layouts to do, lest they sit around
on the payroll for an hour with nothing to draw. There were times when on Monday, the ABC Standards lady — who took pride in being the toughest in
the business — would give me notes on a Richie storyboard. It would take until Tuesday for me to connect with her and get her to back down on
most of her points...but by then, Mr. Hanna had made all the changes and shipped the episode off to Korea for animation. I liked Bill Hanna in many ways but when he gave interviews and complained how the networks were ruining their shows with stupid changes, I thought he was omitting a
very significant, self-inflicted part of the problem.
I worked for another animation producer who, I came to realize,
didn't fight Broadcast Standards because he liked the wholesale laundering of
his product. Why? Because he was counting on making serious cash in the decades
to come when the shows we were doing were rerun in syndication. Okay, nothing
wrong with that...except that he believed there was more danger of a show not
selling in the future because it was too "violent" than of it not being
"violent" enough. (I put "violent" in quotes there because what passed for
"violence" there was one character throwing a pie at another, or bank guards
having guns even if they never drew them.) Anyway, a lot of "violent" scenes and
hard-edged gags got into the scripts and storyboards because they were being
produced initially for one of the networks and that's what that network's
Programming Department wanted.
But then when their Standards and Practices said something had to
go, this producer was eager to comply. He got his shows laundered down to a
level that he thought would be more saleable and then, when the Programming
Department complained (or the writers and artists who worked on the show
bitched), he could say, "Don't blame me. Blame those idiot censors who ruin our
shows." It is probably worth noting that the shows in question have not done
that well in off-network syndication.
Just so we're clear: I am not saying Broadcast Standards changes did not and does not harm shows. They've done and continued to do some
absurd, illogical things to all forms of television programming. But it's not always just a case of innocent artistic types having their work
trampled by cavepeople in the censor business. It is often a case of the folks who have money on the line being stingy or timid.
And in fairness, I should mention that in the eight years I wrote Garfield and
Friends, we never had a single Broadcast Standards note that I felt was unreasonable or harmful. Early on, the gent assigned to us by CBS
gave me a list of about ten no-nos: Mentioning brand names, choking someone by the throat, having someone stick their finger in an electrical outlet,
etc. They were pretty minor caveats...things I probably wouldn't have done anyway. As long as I avoided them, we got along fine...so it isn't always