Nick disclaimer raises questions about 'dialogue' vs. 'language'

TV’s content code is sometimes so specific, it can make a modern-day viewer feel like a meathead.

Cabler Nick at Nite is running a weeklong marathon of the ’70s groundbreaker “All in the Family” — 40 episodes handpicked by series creator Norman Lear, in advance of the show’s regular berth on sister station TV Land, beginning Monday.

Nick is adding a 45-second disclaimer at the beginning of each marathon night, explaining the series is being rated TVPG for dialogue and language — though a spokesman for Nick wasn’t sure, content-codewise, what the difference is between “dialogue” and “language.”

Lear, who wrote some of that dialogue by using some of that language, wasn’t ready to split hairs either Wednesday. “It looks a little nutty,” said Lear of the code letters at the top left corner of the screen to start each episode. “It’s hard to believe people pay any attention to it.”

But a call in to the office of culture watchdog Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., helped solve the problem. An aide located a code book and, disclaimers being the word of the day, explained that the definitions he was about to give would be more general than precise.

“The ‘D,’ ” said the aide, “is for sexually suggestive language. The ‘L’ is for strong, coarse and crude language.”

So “dingbat” is an “L” but not a “D,” and Mike telling Archie to cram it is a “D” rather than an “L”? The aide, who professed to being a fan of “Family,” said the code wasn’t specific about this, but that sounded about right.

Twenty-seven years ago, CBS ran a disclaimer before the first few episodes of “Family” that stated “This series is intended to make us laugh, and show us how absurd some of our beliefs really are.”

Maybe more absurd than they were then.

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