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The speech seems unusually free

October 03, 2006|Scott Collins | Times Staff Writer

If last week's season premiere of NBC's "Saturday Night Live" is any indication, broadcasters have relaxed a bit since Janet Jackson's 2004 "wardrobe malfunction" spurred a wave of concern about alleged indecency spreading over the airwaves.

During "SNL's" fake-news broadcast "Weekend Update," new co-anchor Seth Meyers pretended to interview actor Dustin "Screech" Diamond (portrayed by "SNL" regular Andy Samberg) about a sex tape purportedly made by the former "Saved by the Bell" costar. Meyers mentioned that on the tape Diamond is alleged to have engaged in a "dirty Sanchez."

Many members of the studio audience could be heard gasping. The term Meyers used is slang for a scatological sex act and is considered by many to be a highly offensive ethnic slur.

Even so, the phrase has been showing up increasingly in popular culture, especially in Britain, where MTV's British version of the stunt show "Jackass" is titled "Dirty Sanchez." Movie comedies, including last year's hit "The 40 Year-Old Virgin," have also used the term.

NBC did not bleep the phrase, even for the West Coast feed of "SNL," which is taped from the earlier live broadcast.

This may suggest a greater willingness on the part of broadcasters to air sexually suggestive material as long as it's coded within slang and does not include words that most audience members would easily recognize as profane.

To cite another recent example, at NBC's August telecast of the Emmy Awards, actor Jeremy Piven gave a speech in which he used the word "fluffer," which is slang for a worker on a porn film who helps prepare male actors for their scenes.

An NBC spokeswoman declined to comment Monday. A call to the Federal Communications Commission was not immediately returned.

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Wondering about health of 'Death'

When Fox presented its fall schedule to advertisers in May, everyone was talking about Brad Garrett's rude stand-up routine ridiculing Paula Abdul, Pamela Anderson and Ryan Seacrest.

Not too many folks are buzzing about the former "Everybody Loves Raymond" costar's new sitcom, " 'Til Death," however, and that's proving a problem for Fox.

Thursday's fourth airing delivered 5.7 million total viewers for a weak fourth place in the tough 8 p.m. time slot, opposite CBS' "Survivor: Cook Islands," ABC's premiere of "Ugly Betty" and NBC's "My Name Is Earl," according to Nielsen Media Research.

" 'Til Death" is in the middle of a two-week production hiatus amid rumors that Fox wants to retool it. Garrett's series is scheduled to return with fresh episodes on Nov. 2, after the network wraps its coverage of postseason baseball. Spokespeople for the show played down any hint of behind-the-scenes trouble.

"They're on scheduled hiatus," said Paula Askanas of Sony Pictures Television, which makes the series. "They'll be back on the set on Monday."

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Channel Island is a blog about the television industry. For the latest posting, go to latimes.com/channelisland. Contact reporter Scott Collins at channelisland@latimes.com

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