FX series The People v. O.J. Simpson is guilty – guilty! – of using a rather bad swear word during Tuesday night’s episode, one that had viewers wondering if this was the first time the curse had ever been said on basic cable.
At the end of the third episode of the acclaimed American Crime Story miniseries, which airs at 10 p.m., prosecutor Marcia Clark (Sarah Paulson) realizes famed attorney Johnnie Cochran (Courtney Vance) had joined Simpson’s (Cuba Gooding Jr.) defense team. “Cochran … motherf—er,” she says with exasperation.
By uttering that 12-letter word, it seemed to some viewers that a non-premium network finally said the last of late comic Geoge Carlin’s famous list of Seven Dirty Words You Can Never Say on TV. Twitter, naturally, lit up.
— Tim Stack (@EWTimStack) February 17, 2016
Whoa! Just finished watching the new episode of The People vs OJ Simpson on FX and I guess they can say motherfucker on cable tv now!
— Just Some Dude Steve (@wamixxradiofan) February 17, 2016
Did… did The People v OJ Simpson just break the basic cable “motherfucker” barrier?
— blahmanda (@blahmanda) February 17, 2016
The People vs OJ Simpson has been fantastic so far & really creepy &paints a picture but most surprisingly, you can say motherfucker on FX?
— John M. (@Mohn_Jichael) February 17, 2016
Unlike the Big 5 broadcast networks (NBC, CBS, ABC, Fox, The CW) – which are regulated by the Federal Communications Commission and are required to follow certain decency guidelines – basic cable networks can essentially air whatever they want. In other words, networks like MTV, TNT, AMC, FX, and Discovery Channel are not actually prohibited from airing HBO-levels of sex, language, and violence, but chose to generally aim for PG to PG-13-level content. Basic cable nets have a set of internal guidelines in an effort to stay on brand, attract a broad audience and to create an advertiser-friendly environment. FX in general (and American Crime Story executive producer Ryan Murphy in particular) have pushed the basic cable envelope for years, though both declined to comment on this one.
So was this really the first time “motherf—er” has ever been said uncensored on basic cable?
No. Comedy Central has aired the word in its uncensored comedy specials – but only after 1 a.m. (muting the word when its specials run earlier). This might be, however, the first time the word has ever been used in primetime, especially in a scripted drama. FX has used the word “f–k” a few times before, but not “motherf–ker.”
Still, there’s arguably an even worse hot-button word being repeatedly uttered on People v. O.J. Simpson. And it’s a word that had Twitter users far more upset last night: “Kardashian.”
The People v. O.J. Simpson airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on FX.