Cursing on TV: Better Call Saul, The Good Place, The Goldbergs, more

WTF, man. Several series on basic cable have quietly ventured into previously verboten territory by dropping F-bombs into the dialogue. And it’s not just one or two to liven up the chatter: The premiere episode of Mayans M.C. on Sept. 4 used the four-letter word more than 20 times, while recent episodes of YOU on Lifetime, Better Call Saul on AMC, and Atlanta on FX also included the expletive. (And don’t get us started on the routine use of the word sh— on basic-cable shows; USA’s Suits has practically made it a well-worn legal term.)

“How are you going to make an authentic show about criminals or rappers or motorcycle gangs without using that word?” says FX’s CEO John Landgraf to EW. “It’s about wanting to be as authentic as HBO. It’s that simple.”

It’s also not new, at least for FX. One of the first times the word was used on the network was in a 2014 episode of Louie. A zaftig woman, who was out on a date with a rather picky Louie (Louis C.K.), let him have it by ranting about the double standards in dating. “She uses the word f— and we were like, ‘We’re not going to bleep her,’ ” Landgraf says. “We just said, ‘Let’s be careful. Let’s make it about art.’ Ultimately, I think our audience went with it.”

Basic and premium cable networks, along with streaming services, have lots of potty-mouth freedom because Federal Communications Commission rules for indecency and profanity don’t apply to subscription services. But many academics think it’s high time the government loosened the puritanical yoke on broadcast networks, which are already generous in their use of expletives like bitch and damn anyway. “The restriction was and continues to be a blatant violation of the First Amendment,” argues media studies/communication expert Paul Levinson of Fordham University. “One can only hope that the FCC comes to its senses.”

RELATED VIDEO: The Goldbergs cast reveals the real origins behind Beverly’s F-Bombs

NBC’s The Good Place has found forking creative work-arounds, and bleeping curse words has practically become a comedic device on sitcoms like ABC’s The Goldbergs. But just think what the occasional F-bomb could do for the broadcast channels, which are about as cool as your grandma’s Facebook page. 

“Language and our responses to it are changing,” argues Christopher J. Irving, a faculty instructor in English and humanities at Beacon College in Leesburg, Fla. “If networks want their audiences to continue to relate to their characters in ways
that don’t always require the suspension of disbelief, then maybe they should start dropping more than just one or two F-bombs. Seriously, s— or get off the pot.”


  • Mayans MC creator Kurt Sutter on the show’s origins
  • Better Call Saul creator on finale and what happens next


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