Mon 7 Jun 99 10:50
Steve Quarrella
Catholics hit the Simpsons

D'Oh God!

If you're going to capitulate, do it at the right time, and do it for the right reason. Don't do it like Fox, the mighty network that finally succumbed.

The network handed a victory to the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights when Fox execs decided to edit a Catholic reference from "The Simpsons" Super Bowl episode that was scheduled for a rerun.

The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights should sound familiar to you. These are the same folks who campaigned against "Nothing Sacred" on ABC (about a Catholic priest) and essentially caused its cancellation last season. Apparently the Catholic League is for protecting all civil rights, except for free speech.

"The Simpsons" excerpt in question is pretty mild. Marge and Lisa are watching the Super Bowl game, and a commercial parody of the ZZ Top "Legs" video comes on. One of the girls in the commercial has a crucifix around her neck. During the commercial, the announcer says, "The Catholic Church: We've made a few ... changes."

As Catholic jokes go, this one barely measures on the Richter scale. In fact, compared to most of the groups that "The Simpsons" regularly mocks, Catholics escape with nary a scratch or bruise.

"Simpsons" executive producer Mike Scully is furious. He claims that Fox executives sent the edict to "The Simpsons" team after a spate of angry missives from the Catholic League. The demand: Remove the word "Catholic" from the episode that reaired last week (thus ruining the already mild joke) -- or the episode won't air again.

"I'm really angry," Scully said in the Los Angeles Times. "People can say hurtful things to each other about their weight, their race, their intelligence, their sexual preference and that all seems up for grabs. But when you get into religion, some people get very nervous."

In addition, Scully revealed that Roland McFarland, Fox vice president of broadcast standards, first decided that "Catholic Church" should be replaced entirely with "religion." When that went over as well as a broken Bingo machine at a retirement home, he offered another winning suggestion: Replace "Catholic" with "Methodists, Presbyterians or Baptists." Excuse us?

"When I asked what would be the difference changing it to another religion ... he explained that Fox had already had trouble with Catholics earlier in the season," said Scully. Scully says the joke was nothing more than comedy. "The joke was an observation on crazy Super Bowl commercials, not a comment on the Catholic Church."

So why is Fox treating one of their most successful programs like a dog that just crapped on the carpet? Why did Fox stick up for "Ally McBeal" when the show was criticized by the same Catholic organization for a much more offensive Catholic joke? Fox executives have yet to comment on the matter, but we have an idea. It could be out of embarrassment. Think about it. Would you want to comment if you were a mighty television network who'd allowed yourself to be bullied by a measly little religious organization ... again?

If Fox had any cojones, they'd support their show (within reason -- and the joke in question certainly was). There's humor and there's offensive humor, and while the line between the two is often fine, it's not invisible.

After all, comedy is meant to be laughed at, not monitored.

--- * Origin: Fish he got problem. (1:124/9005)


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