Responding to the FCC’s latest indecency crackdown--which included a finding of indecency against NYPD Blue, acclaimed television producer Steven Bochco (NYPD Blue, L.A. Law, Hill St. Blues) calls the rulings chilling and insists “a show like NYPD Blue could not launch today—couldn’t get made, not in a million years.”
In an interview with B&C, he suggests the FCC’s continued tough stance against Hollywood “explains why the broadcast standards that we are dealing with these days are almost like a throwback to the ‘50s.”
Bochco says his current project, the Touchstone drama pilot Hollis and Rae, about lifelong best friends living in the South, is tame. But he has still received “a lot of broadcast standard notes on everything from language to sexuality.”
“I don’t know if I ever read a broadcast standards memo like we got on Hollis and Rae since the late ‘70s or early ‘80s. It said, ‘Reduce your use of hells and damns.’ Can you imagine?”
CBS, which bore the brunt of the FCC’s indecency fines, has vowed to fight the FCC on the rulings. But Bochco says networks and stations, faced with millions in fines, are “intimidated.” Hesays the “unintended consequence of vertical integration is a real reluctance on the part of these huge media companies to take on the FCC on these issues.”
Unlike his experience with the recent short-lived FX Iraq war drama, Over There, which he calls “pretty salty and very much in keeping with the nature of the subject matter and the reality of that environment,” Bochco laments that the broadcast networks are cracking down on artistic freedoms in a tough political environment.
“It’s unfortunate,” he says. “These things always go in cycles. And the cycles are usually determined by politics. And the politics of the day are driving this particular cycle. Inevitably, it will shift, it always does.”
He relates the situation to the real estate market. "It overheats, then it kind of sags for a time, then it heats up again,” he says. “And inevitably, every time it heats up it goes a little further than where it went the last time. It’s a little bit like two steps forward, one step back. And I think that, right now, we’re in a one-step back phase.”