Prompted by ABC’s “Good Morning America” host Elizabeth Vargas, Tom Hanks demonstrated the accent he used in his latest film “Cloud Atlas.” He warned her that he tended to use the accent for curse words in the film. Caught up in character, the “nicest guy in Hollywood” let the f-word slip out on live TV. He said it was an accident and apologized. ABC quickly announced that it had “corrected the show for all subsequent feeds” but there’s no word from the FCC regarding a penalty. The current FCC chairman, Julius Genachowski, probably won’t get right to Hanks’ blunder, what with pursuing the 1.5 million indecency complaints his agency has received related to 9,700 different television broadcasts just since 2003. The Supreme Court ruled in 1978 that the FCC could fine broadcasters for profanity and nudity during prime time, and they do. (One-named singers are notoriously guilty of breaching etiquette: Cher used the f-word on a live Fox broadcast of the 2002 Billboard Music Awards and Bono did the same at the Golden Globes in 2003.)
The Parents Television Council asserts that Hanks’ f-bomb was not a “mistake” and that the networks need to take more responsibility to keep this from happening again. The Council is particularly incensed by its idea of public enemy #1, Seth MacFarlane, and the premiere episode of his animated TV show “American Dad.” The episode includes verbal and visual references to oral sex and ejaculation. Mr. MacFarlane, not incidentally, has just been named host of Hollywood’s biggest night – the 85th Academy Awards ceremony. Live on ABC, February 24, 2013. The FCC, PTC and no doubt other prudish acronyms will be vigilant that evening for language malfunction, but MacFarlane still uses his first and last name, so there may be little cause for alarm.