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'DISCRETION IS ADVISED FOR ANYONE WHO MISSED THE 1970s'

January 09, 1994|BART MILLS

"Tales of the City" will offer the most sexually frank images ever seen on U.S. broadcast television. A long dialogue scene is played topless on a bed. Men French-kiss passionately in a car. Nude men jog and play Frisbee on the beach. A sympathetic character sniffs cocaine and suffers no consequences. Everyone uses four-letter words.

Such material is commonplace in R-rated films available on cable. But broadcast TV, even PBS, has hardly ever broken any of these taboos.

Two versions of the show are being offered to PBS affiliates. KCET plans to air the "uncut" version, which is the one that was shown in Britain, except that three four-letter words are replaced with euphemisms. In the "soft feed" alternative, a further 15 or so four-letter utterances are "audio-wiped" (the mouth moves but no sound comes out), and breasts and buttocks in several scenes are pixilated (a process that blurs images).

Even the advisory that precedes the show takes liberties. Reminding viewers that the show "depicts a bygone era," the warning goes on: 'Discretion is advised for anyone who missed the 1970s."

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