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James Hibberd

C-Word Gives Critics Pause

July 13, 2007 3:01 PM

When discussing standards between U.S. and British television, the panel for BBC America’s “Hotel Babylon” notes how the f-word is freely bandied about across the pond, though there are still censorship issues with words “worse than” the f-word.

So a critic, half jokingly, asks what words are worse.

“If you really want the answer, here’s the answer,” replies BBC America’s recently installed president Garth Ancier, unexpectedly taking up the challenge. “We’ll tell you … the answer is … the worst word in British television is—“

And he says a four-letter c-word. The bad one. The usual ambient rustling and low talking in the TCA ballroom disappears at the unexpected declaration of the word, probably the most profane word in U.S. television as well. A couple of the panelists try to joke it off, but the word still seems to just hang there.

“That word is not prohibited, it’s just you have to justify it to the censors,” Ancier continues. “For example, on a recent Graham Norton show, the guest said something regarding this, and it was let through because it was in context.”

One of the panelists breaks the silence—by commenting on how the room has gone silent, and adds that most American actors don’t say the word properly. It’s likely the first time a network president has used the c-word on the TCA stage (though I wouldn’t have put it past former HBO CEO Chris Albrecht, whose podium aggression was dearly missed yesterday). The obvious follow up question is, “What is the proper context?” but nobody asks.


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