June 30, 2004

We Get the Sitcoms We Deserve

I've been a little out of the loop lately, so I wouldn't be surprised if this is old news to everybody else. But I just learned (via Virginia Postrel) of this case, where a "writers' assistant" on the writing staff of the sitcom "Friends" has sued Warner Brothers, alleging sexual harassment because of the sexual jokes and lurid comments that the "Friends" writers would utter while "brain-storming" for story lines. Sounds like a fun time, um, I mean, a hostile work environment.

Yes, as everybody says, there are chilling implications for free speech and the free exchange of ideas if dirty jokes qua dirty jokes really are actionable. On the other hand, here in the Bay Area, they've been trying to stamp out dirty jokes for a long, long time, and with a bit of success. Actionable or not, you're crazy if you tell a dirty joke to someone at work. You're crazy if you laugh at a dirty joke that someone else tells at work. I think everyone in our fun-loving community instinctively realizes that what you're supposed to do when someone tells a dirty joke is to pretend you don't understand why it's supposed to be funny. Eventually, the theory runs, everybody's feigned inability to understand dirty jokes will turn into a genuine inability and the troubling legal and free speech issues will simply fall away; actionability will be superfluous because the situation will never come up. I think that's the idea. A kinder gentler clampdown.

The real tragedy here, though, it seems to me, is that none of those good jokes seem to have ended up making it on to the show, which would, theoretically at least, have made it watch-able. Ah, what might have been...

Posted by Dr. Frank at June 30, 2004 06:29 PM | TrackBack

Lyle claims the three writers had a tendency to ``make jokes about David Schwimmer being gay'' and ``regularly
discussed making the character Joey a serial rapist and would discuss full scenes of how he would rape the women.''


Posted by: seinfeld_no1_fan at June 30, 2004 06:56 PM

okay here's the thing...you have to think
about where you are going to be working.
I'm not condoning the actions of these
"writers"(as people in tv still manage to
be called somehow)in fact quite the opposite,
but sometimes you have to use your good judgement,something that I don't always do
myself actually. Don't put yourself in the
employ of pop media that is not only badly
but is probably in pretty poor taste anyway.

That said...and maybe this is in laman's terms
so forgive me for not being an intellectual about it...when someone is getting hurt its not bloody
"swallowing the first amendment". You have to
draw the line somewhere,it doesn't mean you can
say anything you want to anyone and get away with it. Hence we have libel,hence we have slander.
That may not be the nature of the case,but just
for example. That's how it is...end of story.

Posted by: just me at June 30, 2004 08:30 PM

Seriously guys, calling David Schwimmer gay ISSSS kind of like shouting fire in a sold out movie theatre.

Posted by: Chach at June 30, 2004 10:27 PM

There isn't a constitutional right not to be offended, just me, which is a universe away from libel and slander.

This is a typical "show me the money" lawsuit. Give me a break.

Posted by: JB at July 1, 2004 12:03 AM

I think you're wrong JB, I think this is just a sneak pubnlicity stunt for the new reality show based on the writers of the Friends spinoff "Joey" this fall --Blech I hate reality TV--.

Anyway as for dirty jokes -- What has teeth bigger than a pit bull, balls bigger than a bull, makes more waves than a whale, is a bigger bitch than Cujo, is more of an ass than Frances the talking Mule and will fuck every man in the United States? A: Hillary Clinton!!!

Posted by: Zaphod Beeblebrox at July 1, 2004 12:19 AM

woah there zaph, easy on the obscure references. that joke had more than its fair share, cha cha.
but regarding 'friends', i just have an overwhelming desire to murder everyone on it. joey was somewhat tolerable in his stupidity i suppose. go figure he's the only one to get his own show. i can proudly say i never watched an entire episode of it.

Posted by: myke at July 1, 2004 01:35 AM

If there were any funny jokes, they didn't make it into the affidavit that was posted at thesmokinggun.com a couple of months ago.

Posted by: Gary Farber at July 1, 2004 02:07 AM

To think... Friends could have been the next Married... With Children.
Just without the marriage, or children. What was this show about again?

Posted by: michael lee at July 1, 2004 02:52 AM

Friends is the most overrated show in the history of television. I never once laughed at that show.

Posted by: jq at July 1, 2004 04:57 AM

okay i'm not even from the bay area, so i'm not playing the "i didn't get it" game. I really didn't get it, zaph. and in fact it kind of offended me. sexist creep. ha!! now isn't that funny!! ooo boy.

Posted by: r a e d y at July 1, 2004 04:00 PM

Well, folks, I guess there's a fine line between between offensive and insipid.

Posted by: Dr. Frank at July 1, 2004 04:06 PM

despite all the 'hilarious' things the boys allegedly talked about (from the affidavit at smoking gun), they were still unable to write a funny show! imagine that! yet they made gazillions of dollars. thanks america!
i used to work with people like this. WHEN I WAS 15! these guys are creepy. sheesh.

Posted by: r a e d y at July 1, 2004 04:29 PM

Yeah, r a e d y, I finally looked at the official complaint posted on the smoking gun, and it all seems quite infantile. I can't say I find it super-shocking though. I guess you'd have had to be there to know whether all the lewd stuff was funny or not, and maybe that would depend on who you are and how much they were paying you participate in it. "Friends" was lame and insipid and utterly boring, so it wouldn't surprise me if the raunchy jokes of its masterminds were less than top-notch.

That said, some of the complaints, taken out of context (or really, even left in context) are inadvertantly funny. Kind of like Daily Show-esque moments of Zen:

#30: "Several of the writers made lewd and offensive drawings of women some of which involved cheerleaders and some of which involved breasts."

#53: "I recall Greg Malins stating once that whenever he's fighting with his wife he likes to go and get naked."

#78 "Greg Malins liked to doodle and it was usually something disgusting."

#81 "Andrew Reich made a nasty calender where he made the calendar state rude and offensive things."

#78 sounds like it could be the opening line of a hit Gen-Y novel.

Posted by: Dr. Frank at July 1, 2004 05:32 PM

Well,to play devil's advocate(not to the case but to things that are going on right now that
are kind of related)I just thing that line needs
to be drawn. Flippin Howard Stern's all worried
now that his show is going to be taken off the air. To tell the truth,I couldn't be happier.

I hope it does,talk about insipid people.

Posted by: just me at July 1, 2004 08:33 PM

Okay guys, sorry if you found my joke in poor taste, I was just a little irritated at the "breaking story" on the Drudge report that Hillary is going to be Kerry's running mate for VP and not John Edwards.

Anyway, hate Friends as we may, at least is wasn't reality TV. I'm soooooo sick of that crap. Blockbuster has been getting a lot of business from me lately because the only 2 TV shows that I actually find enjoyable are Star Trek: Enterprise and The Shield. I can't justify paying $20 a month to watch the Sopranos but love it too so I rent it when it comes to DVD.

Posted by: Zaphod Beeblebrox at July 1, 2004 09:06 PM

firstly forgive the topic...

are you kidding me? that new one with the
guy from quantum leap(which was still a better show)and the unbearable theme song?


i never know anymore,Star Trek is so overkilled now i forget which is which.

if anything i watch the primetime cartoons,
Malcolm in The Middle and that one show
I forget the name of that's before it.

I have hopes, its like Malcolm meets The Wonder Years. Not too bad.

Posted by: just me at July 1, 2004 09:51 PM

that's pretty funny about #78. I think I might have read that in high school.

Posted by: r a e d y at July 1, 2004 11:48 PM

You're right about Star Trek, it is the one with Scott Bakula aka Sam Beckett and the theme song is shitty, but that is where you cease to be correct. The first year was a bit slow, the second took it up a couple of notches and year three totally kicked ass although the cliffhanger was a bit stupid, but we'll have to wait until season 4 to see if it just seems stupid now or really is stupid.

Posted by: Zaphod Beeblebrox at July 2, 2004 12:09 AM

I wonder if Greg Malins ever doodled something like this on his computer or typewriter?


This is what the geeks-of-old called PRON.

Posted by: Zaphod Beeblebrox at July 2, 2004 12:59 AM

oh no,its always been stupid,i've watched it.

except for the one where the vulcans
crash landed,lived among small town folk,
and apparently invented velcro.

Posted by: just me at July 2, 2004 02:34 AM

I'm just wondering - have any of these prudes in the Bay area who are offended at dirty jokes ever seen the annual Gay Pride Parade? Because, like, Damn!

Posted by: Steve at July 2, 2004 05:31 PM

Hey, what beats drug-addicted horny Vulcans who get it on, a captain with a dog, who when he pees on a new planet, they say "where no dog has gone before!," snotty Vulcans, time travel fu, alien whale ships, and, best of all, alien Nazis!

Okay, maybe a number of things beat that, but I'm a sucker.

Posted by: Gary Farber at July 3, 2004 06:56 AM

Lame no, insipid no, utterly boring no.

No, no, no. Friends was excellent. It usually had great periods and lame periods, sometimes keeping either up for the whole season, but overall it stuck to the former. Friends is one of those things like The Simpsons, Peep Show, Bottom, Red Dwarf: I dont care who you are or where you're from, its really not alright if you dont like it. Its like people that dont like the Beach Boys, it should be classified as a medical condition, though i'm not sure what it would be known as yet.

PS. Also anyone that uses the word insipid to describe a TV show needs to get to a hospital and get the thesaurus removed from their ass before they start describing the weather as "amicable".

Posted by: Danny at July 4, 2004 05:11 AM

I have no idea how to respond to that.

Posted by: just me at July 5, 2004 11:20 PM