Here's what William Shatner had to say about censorship

Shatner breaks down what could, and couldn't, be done on TV in '85.

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Not even Captain Kirk could get away with always doing whatever he wanted. Anybody making mass media is subject to having their work censored.

There's a notable obscenity trial from 1961 called Jacobellis v. Ohio, wherein Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart described a now infamous threshold for what is and isn't acceptable. Rather than come up with any clear definition of obscenity, Potter wrote, "I know it when I see it," and in doing so, set an unfortunate precedent for future censorship. While there are hard limits, there's also a lot of gray area in "acceptable" content. So much of what's deemed vulgar or unwatchable comes down to the governing body or whoever is entrusted with censorship. So, one man's "unwatchably violent" could be another's "T.J. Hooker."

This same discussion regarding inconsistency in censorship was true in the '80s. Specifically, it was a problem William Shatner found himself up against as the star of a few different programs post-Star Trek. T.J. Hooker was broadcasted by two different companies. So, his experience on that show made him an expert in network politics. Originally, the show was a prime-time ABC program, but then that channel dropped T.J. Hooker from its schedule. It was then picked up by CBS, who slotted it for later at night. 

"We've found CBS is much more picayune in the area of censorship, on the amount of violence that can be shown. So, we have a much tighter reign on violence than we had at ABC for 8 o'clock. I'm seeing two views on censorship policies. I can say that CBS is much more stringent." 

Shatner noted that the change in airtime didn't just affect the show's content. Whereas ABC's budget for the primetime T.J. Hooker had been around $900,000 per episode, CBS slashed the budget when it shifted the program to late-night.

"All the other cop shows are spending well over $1 million," Shatner told The Times Herald. "When you're asked to pare it down, you're really cutting muscle. The basis of an action show is action. So, we've had to be clever. We've had to invent chases instead of car crashes. We have more character conflict." 

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11 Comments

JHP 9 months ago
not slamming Canadians at all - I still can't believe he was born in Montreal Que (speaking of no accent and the same with Raymond Burr (would was born on the other side of Canada
Jimtypes 9 months ago
Being told what to do (SCTV) can lead to creative genius. Being told what not to do also leads to creative endeavors. Resourceful writers and actors always prevail.
Runeshaper 9 months ago
"I know it when I see it" - what the heck?! lol
LoveMETV22 10 months ago
Good story. Seems William Shatner has always a certain amount to say on different topics. Nothing wrong in that regard.
justjeff 10 months ago
Where, oh where are the MeTV proofreaders? Oh yeah... participating in the Proofreader's Strike...

1. "T.J. Hooker was broadcasted by two different companies." Did we then *watched* the show? It's "broadcast", plain and simple...
2. "Originally, the show was a prime-time ABC program, but then that channel dropped T.J. Hooker from its schedule." ABC is a network. A channel is a network affiliate station assigned to a particular broadcast frequency! On cable, that term might be more acceptable as in "The History Channel", etc., but for over-the-air it's "network", because the network is made up of individual broadcast channels carrying its programming...
DocForbin 10 months ago
When Shatner said "Let's get the Hell out of here" at the end of "City on the Edge of Forever" there was a big stink over it. Fast forward to the Enterprise prequel and Ensign Mayweather saying "son of a b-word" hardly drew any notice. More recently Captain Picard dropped the F-bomb on the final season of his show. It's kind of funny how the perceptions of cursing on TV has changed over the years.
Coldnorth DocForbin 9 months ago
That reminded me of the comedian George Carlin about the cuss words you can’t say on tv. That list sure shrunk since then. I have heard many cuss words on shows that are actually said by the kids.
Mark Coldnorth 9 months ago
Years later, Carlin added three more words to the list...and in that new routine, added a whole list of phrases that probably couldn't be said on television. It's the closing bit of his first cable special.
Coldnorth Mark 9 months ago
Didn’t realize that . Thanks for sharing
cperrynaples 10 months ago
It should be noted that Shatner once starred in a sitcom where the title included a word I can't say on this board! You can proably figure it for yourself, it's "[BLANK} My Dad Says"! Believe it or not, it ran on CBS!
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