herald

Wednesday 23 July 2014

When only the F word will do...

POTTY MOUTH: News anchor A J Clemente swore live on air

This is an article about swearing on television. Consequently, over the next few hundred words you're going to encounter what some of you might regard as mild profanities.

You're also going to come across quite a few of these: ***. Personally speaking, I hate these: ***. They annoy the hell out of me. They look coy and dishonest, not to mention ugly, in print

But since The Herald, in common with many newspapers, operates a policy of not printing certain swear words in full, even when they fall within the context of a direct quote, there's nothing one can do but say: "F*** it, I'm stuck with it," and move swiftly on.

Someone with no choice but to move on is AJ Clemente. He's the rookie news anchor who started his first day in the job with Dakota TV station KFYR by audibly uttering "f***, s***" during a live broadcast.

 

Sacked

AJ was first suspended then sacked, despite a vigorous social media campaign to give him a second chance.

He subsequently went on NBC's Today Show to explain that he'd been engrossed in his script, hadn't realised the broadcast had begun 30 seconds earlier than usual, and blurted out the "fireball shot", as he called it, in frustration at not being able to pronounce a name in a news story.

I'm with AJ on this one. He swore on live television – so what? Nobody died. If it's a choice between a man who vents his frustrations with an honest to goodness "f***", or the kind of anodyne, glassy-eyed, plastic-coated automaton that passes for the average American news anchor, I'll take ol' AJ any day.

As anyone who's ever worked in the white-hot atmosphere of a newsroom will tell you, many journalists – male and female – swear loudly and often. They have to, because there are times when "fiddlesticks" simply won't do the job as effectively as a well-aimed F-bomb.

For the record, I myself am possessed of a tongue like a blacksmith's armpit on a hot July day in a raging foundry. To pretend that AJ or any other TV news anchor is somehow different (and somehow less human) is, to put it in a nutshell, bulls***.

I don't trust people who don't swear. If they feel the need to keep such a tight rein on what they say, we should probably worry about what else they might be struggling to keep under control. Their homicidal impulses, perhaps.

Take Mitt Romney, who a troublingly large number of Americans seriously considered making their president.

Here is a man who, throughout his campaign, quite happily lied through his perfectly straight teeth every time he stood in front of a TV camera, yet who flatly refuses to use the expression, "Go to hell".

 

Lunatic

Instead, Romney tells his detractors: "Go to H E double-hockey sticks." To me, that is the utterance of a dangerous lunatic who should be kept well away from the levers of power – especially the one labelled "Pull for nuclear war".

Here and in Britain, mainstream television is a whole lot looser in its approach to so-called bad language. It's become practically the norm for contemporary dramas broadcast after the 9pm watershed to be liberally sprinkled with the word "f***". Even its toxic cousin "c***" has been known to make the occasional guest-star appearance.

And that's the way it should be, because that's the way a lot of people talk out in the real world. Better that than someone saying "frig" or "frick" – or worse, the hideous "feck". Now THAT'S what you call foul language.

> LOST FOR WORDS On Channel 4's 10 O'Clock Live on Wednesday, Charlie Brooker was pondering the Boston police's controversial tactics in their hunt for the marathon bombers. "Well, if it helps to avoid attacks...," he began, before turning to co-host Jimmy Carr and asking: "Jimmy, how do YOU feel about avoiding a tax?"

For once, Carr was lost for words. Sadly, so is Lauren Laverne (pictured), who again this series seems to be relegated to the role of token woman.

If the producers are really intent on retuning the show, they should start with this sour chord.

> HOW MUCH? In the continuing war of words about RTE TV and radio stars' salaries, 2FM presenter Colm Hayes seemed to strike a rare note of honesty this week. "I think we were all paid far too much for too long," admitted Hayes, whose pay has been slashed from €213,954 to €170,000.

Alas, he inadvertently raised another awkward question: how did the presenter of a mid-morning talkshow in a market already awash with similar mid-morning talkshows come to be earning nearly €214,000 to begin with?

> HARD ACTS TO FOLLOW Broadchurch reached its gripping conclusion on Monday. Apart from demonstrating that British drama can, when it tries, match anything coming out of the Scandinavian hotbed that gave us The Killing and Borgen, it proved that David Tennant and Olivia Colman are the two finest British actors working in television today.

If you're in doubt, watch Tennant in The Politician's Husband – it's like seeing a different man, let alone a different character – and keep your eyes peeled for Colman in next month's The Suspicions of Mr Whicher.

The programme itself is just average, but whenever Colman is on screen, you simply can't take your eyes off her.

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