Showrunners tear at reality, censors

Radio and Television Society luncheon takes on TV issues

The TV showrunners speaking at Wednesday’s Hollywood Radio and Television Society luncheon found little consensus about the pros and cons of reality programming.

While “Family Guy” creator Seth MacFarlane pronounced the genre unwatchable, “The Office” executive producer Greg Daniels quietly extolled the virtues of “Average Joe” — and “Gilmore Girls” exec producer Amy Sherman-Palladino sought out a middle ground.

“I don’t begrudge the existence of reality shows,” Sherman-Palladino said to her fellow panelists, which also included executive producers Anthony E. Zuiker of “CSI,” Ronald D. Moore of “Battlestar Galactica” and Damon Lindelof of “Lost.” “I think it’s a shame that their existence has become a crutch (for networks) not creating great shows.”

Sherman’s statement provided an exception to what was mostly a holds-barred event, with the headliners amusing the gathering in Beverly Hills without being particularly provocative. ABC latenight host Jimmy Kimmel emceed the ongoing joviality with typical sophomoric sophistication.

One area where everyone seemed to find similar fascination and frustration was the battle with network censors in what MacFarlane, quoting one exec, called “a post-Janet Jackson world.” Moore detailed negotiations of how many consecutive pelvic thrusts “Galactica” could offer in one scene before cutting away — at which point the program could then cut back for one more thrust. Apparently, overall quantity of said thrusts was less harmful than showing the actors in any kind of “rhythmic sex.”

Even more than bedroom scenes, McFarlane called jokes about rudimentary bodily functions “Public Enemy No. 1” among the keepers of broadcast standards. Daniels noted an episode of another of his shows, “King of the Hill,” depicting Hank Hill unable to have a bowel movement, only received network approval after Daniels sold it as a public service encouraging viewers to have colonoscopies.

It’s worth mentioning that the discussion came after lunch.

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