Sliced Veggies

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I know this is an old story, but anyway: NBC will be airing episodes of Veggie Tales on Saturday morning, but they've made some alterations. Initially, NBC claimed that the edits were to meet the time constraints of commercial TV, but later they 'fessed up:

“NBC is committed to the positive messages and universal values of ‘VeggieTales,’” the statement said. “Our goal is to reach as broad an audience as possible with these positive messages, while being careful not to advocate any one religious point of view.”

Terry Mattingly at Get Religion comments:

This is a really interesting claim, since the key statement that has been banned is the VeggieTales motto used at the end of each episode, which is: “Remember kids, God made you special and he loves you very much.”

This statement was removed to avoid advocating “any one religious point of view.” This would be the controversial doctrinal point of view which maintains that God loves children. Of course, NBC leaders may have assumed that the statement that “God made you special” could be taken as an attack on evolution. That’s the ticket. Meanwhile, I should stress that Bob the Tomato does not do anything faith-specific while making this closing benediction, such as falling on his knees and making the sign of the cross. Bob the Tomato (see second image) does not have knees or arms.

What else was cut? Veggie Tales creator Phil Vischer provided some details to The Tennessean:

Eliminated lines from one episode included “Calm down. The Bible says we should love our enemies.” In another episode, Vischer said, NBC allowed the line “the Bible says Samson got his strength from God.” But the next line — “And God can give us strength, too” — was out.

The changes included cuts in dialogue where characters utter the word “God” and were so last-minute and awkward, Vischer said, that in some cases “it makes the stories not work very well.” For the sign-off, where the original words were simply voiced-over, “the lips don’t match, so it kind of looks like a Japanese cartoon with lips moving” out of synch with the words, he said.

A commenter on the Get Religion post points out the absurdity of NBC acquiring the rights to air Veggie Tales, but then stripping out the religious content:

This is like “Gunsmoke without the guns”....

But it still strikes me as mind blowingly stupid and ultimately self-defeating for NBC. They pay good money for a unique property that comes to them with a built in audience. They then proceed to deliberately remove the one thing that makes the property unique and valuable while simultaneously alienating said built in audience.

It reminds me of what CBS did when they gave Riders in the Sky their own Saturday morning show. The Riders perform cowboy music in the tradition of Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, and the Sons of the Pioneers, leavened with a lot of comedy that appeals to grownups and kids alike. (If they ever come to your town -- here's a list of tour dates -- take your family -- great music and a lot of fun.) I first got to know them through their weekly Riders Radio Theater. Every episode of the show features a sendup of the old Saturday morning cowboy serials, complete with bad guys (the mustache-twirling melodramatic Slocum and his goon Charlie) and their Gabby Hayes-like geezer of a sidekick, known as Sidemeat.

(This article, from 1997, does a good job of explaining what Riders in the Sky are all about.)

So CBS thought they'd be great for Saturday morning. They could do their cowboy stuff on TV -- but no guns. Not "no shooting guns" but "no guns visible at all." And the villains weren't allowed to be really villainous. This from the network that aired Gunsmoke.

(It must be noted that, even when they're allowed to have guns, the Riders' weapons of choice are Ranger Doug's hypersonic yodel and Sidemeat's biscuits -- "the hardest substance known to man.")

Not only do the networks not "get religion," I don't think they "get" much of anything outside of the very narrow perspective of Hollywoodland.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on October 6, 2006 12:21 PM.

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