Cosby Critical of `Public Morals' New Sitcom's Language Is Offensive, He Says

By McAlister, Nancy | The Florida Times Union, July 25, 1996 | Go to article overview
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Cosby Critical of `Public Morals' New Sitcom's Language Is Offensive, He Says

McAlister, Nancy, The Florida Times Union

PASADENA, Calif. -- Bill Cosby, never one to mince words,

leveled a few critical ones in the direction of a new fall

sitcom. It happens to be on his own network.

The new show is Public Morals, created by Steven Bochco,

producer of the once-controversial NYPD Blue. The CBS show is

about members of a New York vice squad charged with keeping the

city sleaze-free. Cosby suggested the pilot may be a prime


In that first half hour -- which may or may not air as is --

the word "whore" is used at least a dozen times. But what's

drawn most of the criticism is the slang words for lesbians and

male and female anatomy that pepper the script. Cosby called it

pushing the envelope. And he didn't mean that as a compliment.

"I've always had a problem with these new shows," said the

Emmy-winning actor, whose new sitcom Cosby will join the NBC

schedule next month at 8 p.m. on Mondays. "They tried to do that

on The Cosby Show once."

In that instance, the script called for a character to say "And

we're gonna go someplace and kick butt." Cosby informed the

writer that "butt" was not a punchline, nor could it be in a


That, of course, has become common on TV, but Cosby is

concerned that Public Morals is taking it much further.

"They have nine people sitting around a table who call

themselves writers, and the best they can come up with is [the

offending term]! And that's a punchline!"

Cosby implied it was a case of a producer using the audience

"to satisfy some sort of adolescence and immaturity."

"It's important that we try to push the minds of those who've

studied English literature, American literature and try to put

it on television," said Cosby, who's also a best-selling author

and who earned a doctorate in education in 1977.

And Cosby isn't the only one who has expressed an opinion about

the Public Morals pilot. Several CBS affiliates are concerned

about it enough to discuss preempting the show, according to CBS

entertainment chief Leslie Moonves. He called Public Morals a

controversial show that has also prompted questions from

advertisers. Whether the language of the pilot will change

before airtime is under discussion.

Sherry Burns, vice president and general manager of WJXT TV-4,

CBS's Jacksonville affiliate, said she wasn't particularly

comfortable with the pilot of Public Morals , which she saw at

the annual affiliates meeting earlier this year.

"I felt that the language was little strong," she said, adding

that she would welcome it if Bochco decided to tone the show


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