What the bleep is TVGuardian? It's the latest in home censorship for your television, except that this gizmo works with both TV shows and videos and you can have some fun with its creative, squeaky-clean interpretations of cusswords.
A device about half the size of a cable box that hooks up between your television set and cable box, VCR, satellite receiver, or DVD player, TVGuardian reads a program's encoded closed-caption signal against its own preset dictionary of offensive language, mutes the sound when it finds a listed word or phrase, and displays a profanity-free caption instead, thus freeing the 7-year-old in the family to enjoy the visual and verbal wit of, say, Men in Black, but without the gutter talk. (For the hearing impaired, TVGuardian can be set to display continuous profanity-free closed-captioning; the device can also be locked to avoid tampering by the kids.)
Our own trial confirms that TVGuardian which advertises that it catches 65 out of 66 bad words in Men in Black and all but 4 of 93 in Speed does a darn good job of silencing profanity (although it doesn't work on live shows or older movies and tapes that don't have closed-captioning built in). It's these translations, especially on the ''strict'' setting (as opposed to the ''tolerant'' setting), that make for top-notch popcorn entertainment in itself.
With TVGuardian up and running, Will Smith now ''says'' things like ''Step away from your busted-rear vehicle,'' and ''this definitely rates about a 9.0 on my weird crud-o-meter.'' TVGuardian failed to edit Smith's mumbled ''what the hell you talkin' about?'' line before he meets Tommy Lee Jones at police headquarters because the close-caption signal failed to pick up the line.
As for the R-rated Speed, it's a veritable ''crud''-a-thon. While TVGuardian missed a couple of f---s (most uses of the F-word become ''wow,'' as in Dennis Hopper's early line, ''Don't wow with daddy''), and it let ''scumbag'' slide by, the device may leave you wondering where the vulgarity could have lurked in, say, ''Now he's a little squeezed at me,'' or ''Man sure has a feeling for this bus'' a stupefaction that careful parents, of course, will want for their children. Not that there won't be questions. One of the more creative translations comes in Air Force One: On the strict setting TVGuardian mutes a general's line and replaces it with the caption ''The President will get back his baseball glove and play catch with this guy's feeli.'' Oh-kay.
Enterprising kids who really want to hear the bad words can merely rewind to just before the objectionable phrase is heard, because it takes TVGuardian several seconds to kick in. But, hey, kids, let's be kind and not rewind.