Saturday 15 December 2018

The Don'ts of Bullwinkle

There are a few things in television which continue to linger from the days of old time radio. One of them is executive skittishness.

It’s impossible to not offend someone. Anything offends somebody. Yet people with large salaries in huge offices with big mahogany desks at the networks cower in fear that someone will get upset about something on the air for the most ridiculous reason, so they try to placate them by imposing the most idiotic restrictions.

Such things lead producers, stars and other creative people to say “Are you kidding?”

Among those people were Jay Ward and Bill Scott. When their Bullwinkle Show went into prime time in 1961, they were told to be irreverent—except when it came to a whole barrage of things. Here they are musing about it in a column from November 3, 1961.

'Bullwinkle' Has Problems

Hollywood — The voice of "Bullwinkle Moose," Bill Scott, looked at his partner, Jay Ward, and teased: "If I really sound like Red Skelton, I should get more money out of this operation!"
The remark had been prompted by just one of the headaches incumbent on Jay Ward Productions since "The Bullwinkle Show" debuted several weeks ago on NBC-TV as a primetime Sunday feature directly preceding "Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color." Just hours before we'd sat down to split a hamburger with the enterprising pair, word had reached them that Red Skelton was quite upset because many people were making bets that the "Bullwinkle" voice was actually Red's, the specific one he uses for his "Clem Kadidlehopper" character.
A foot shorter than his partner, Ward does all the tall talking, while Scott nods agreement, a relationship that reminded us of the police partners in the "Car 54, Where Are You?" series.
All Don'ts
"It's kind of funny when you think that we had no problems when we had a daytime show ("Rocky and His Friends"). Nobody bothered us about anything. For instance, the Bullwinkle voice was the same on the Rocky series — no complaints. We go big time with Bullwinkle and the first thing that happens is an eight-page list of Don'ts! from the sponsors—not a single Do. If we adhered to that nutty list, we wouldn't be able to say much more than Hello on our show.
"Everybody's a censor anticipating what might offend the public. To give you an idea of how wrong sponsors can be, they wanted us to eliminate our 'Dudley Doright' character (a Royal Canadian 'do wrong' mountie) because it might offend Canadians. Well, the show was offered to the government-controlled Canadian Broadcasting Company and they turned it down because we had Russian spies in Bullwinkle and they didn't want anything that might offend Moscow. Not a murmur of protest about 'Dudley.' You figure that one; we can't!
PTA Recommendation
"Then the network, even before we went on the air for the first time, suggested we eliminate our Fractured Fairy Tales segments because it would confuse children who took as gospel the original stories. It's satire, we screamed, and kids are more hep to satire than adults. So they let up keep it on and what happens? The Parent Teachers Association national magazine falls over backwards to heartily recommend our show for kiddies!
"Now we've got another headache. We can't satirize American idols like the Wright Brothers, Daniel Boone and Paul Revere. Especially, and man did they lay the law down to us on this, we can't caricature American presidents, living or dead. Satire, we scream, especially in a cartoon, isn't necessarily ridicule. Satire must have recognizable identity to be appreciated. But they shouted us down. It's okay, though, if we satirize foreign heroes like Napoleon, Pasteur or Lafayette! I sometimes wonder if it's just a few people without a sense of humor, but in positions of authority, who are making it seem as if our country at large has lost its sense of humor.
"Now, we lead into the Disney show, right? So we plug Disney by kidding him. People—maybe it's just one anonymous postcard—put the rap on us for this and a couple of frightened ad agency or network executives start making 'nyet' noises. But, you know, Disney has yet to say Boo? I'll bet he's even pleased! Maybe we should forget about the 10 million dollars we expect to make on this show and find an easier way to make a living."
"Me," said Scott, breaking his long silence with his "Bullwinkle" voice, "I can always go to work for Red Skelton!"

1 comment:

  1. Hans Christian Brando16 December 2018 at 06:46

    Mid-century PC! Not to mention the so-called "self-portraits" (seen here) that makes fun of mental illness. But of course that was okay in those days.