TV Finally Offers a Refreshing, Funny Take on the Election—From Chuck Lorre?

Slate's Culture Blog
Nov. 5 2012 5:58 PM

Sitcoms’ Most Refreshing Take on the Election? It Came From Chuck Lorre.

Chuck Lorre
TV producer Chuck Lorre in 2012.

Photo by Valerie Macon/Getty Images

Nothing draws attention to an unappreciated—or unnoticed—work of art as much as a charge of censorship. Many mediocre works have sold thousands of copies just because they have appeared on a list of banned books. Last week, TV producer Chuck Lorre attracted attention to one of his weekly public pensées by skipping the middleman and censoring himself, and in the process he revealed a surprisingly liberal bent.

June Thomas June Thomas

June Thomas is a Slate culture critic and editor of Outward, Slate’s LGBTQ section. 

Lorre is the creator of three of U.S. television’s most successful sitcoms: The Big Bang Theory, which is America’s top-rated comedy, Two and a Half Men, and Mike & Molly. The Big Bang Theory is a relatively inoffensive rumination on the lives and loves of a group of nerdy scientists, but the others are sex comedies that have sometimes repelled liberal viewers.

Advertisement

At the end of most U.S. TV shows’ end credits, production cards bearing the logos of the production companies that made the show flash briefly across the screen. For the last 15 years, Lorre has used the space that would otherwise display the logo of Chuck Lorre Productions for his “vanity cards”: messages that appear on-screen for a split-second. Only those viewers curious enough to pause their DVRs—or, in the old days, VCRs—can read the notes. As a September 2010 Slate piece about Lorre’s vanity cards noted, “They’ve offered intimate revelations, broad comedy, and righteous anger (often inspired by network censors).”

 After last week’s episodes of The Big Bang Theory and Two and a Half Men, the vanity card announced that Lorre himself had decided his message was too strong for network television. It read:

CHUCK LORRE PRODUCTIONS, #397
CENSORED BY ME
(by myself)
I've decided to save everybody a lot of unhappiness and not submit this week's vanity card to the CBS censors (I know when I’ve crossed the line with these things and don’t need a bunch of corporate lawyers getting their cotton blend panties in a bunch). Accordingly, I’ve banished the offending card to that dark place where all my offending cards go—the internet.

Those viewers that went online in search of Lorre’s unexpurgated thoughts discovered the following message:

CHUCK LORRE PRODUCTIONS, #397
CENSORED BY ME
What does it say about us when we are simultaneously pro-life and pro AK-47's? What does it say about us when God’s will would allow a rapist to ask for shared custody and child support payments? What does it say about us when a black guy’s in charge and we say things like “it’s time to take America back”? What does it say about us when we think the institution of marriage is threatened by gay people who love each other, but not by idiotic game shows like “The Bachelor”? What does it say about us when we export democracy with Hellfire missiles, then restrict the right to vote here? What does it say about us when we build nuclear submarines to defend against exploding vests? What does it say about us when we think a guy who doesn't drink, doesn’t smoke, keeps his money offshore, stubs his toe and says “H-E-double hockey sticks” and wears magical underwear can feel our pain? What does it say about us when we demand less government and more FEMA? What does it say about us when we completely forgot the colossal shit storm we were in four years ago?
The answer, my friends, is not blowing in the wind.
The answer is, “We are fucking crazy.”

Coming after a period when very few sitcoms dared to tackle the election—and when those shows that did so, generally by staging some form of battle for the support of an undecided voter, largely failed to make the campaign interesting or funny—there’s something refreshing about Lorre’s openness. Even deducting some marks for the offensively anti-Mormon reference to “magical underwear,” it’s a clear challenge to ordinary citizens to confront the contradictory messages at the center of American politics. And most unusual of all in this political season, it’s actually kind of funny.

TODAY IN SLATE

Sports Nut

Grandmaster Clash

One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.

The Extraordinary Amicus Brief That Attempts to Explain the Wu-Tang Clan to the Supreme Court Justices

Amazon Is Officially a Gadget Company. Here Are Its Six New Devices.

How Much Should You Loathe NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell?

Here are the facts.

Amazon Is Officially a Gadget Company

Science

The Human Need to Find Connections in Everything

It’s the source of creativity and delusions. It can harm us more than it helps us.

Food

How to Order Chinese Food

First, stop thinking of it as “Chinese food.”

Scotland Is Inspiring Secessionists Across America

You Shouldn’t Spank Anyone but Your Consensual Sex Partner

Moneybox
Sept. 17 2014 5:10 PM The Most Awkward Scenario in Which a Man Can Hold a Door for a Woman
  News & Politics
Jurisprudence
Sept. 18 2014 10:42 AM Scalia’s Liberal Streak The conservative justice’s most brilliant—and surprisingly progressive—moments on the bench.
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 17 2014 1:36 PM Nate Silver Versus Princeton Professor: Who Has the Right Models?
  Life
Education
Sept. 18 2014 12:30 PM “Alt-Ac” to the Rescue? Humanities Ph.D.s are daring to enjoy their “regular” jobs, and the definition of academic success is changing. Sort of.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 18 2014 12:03 PM The NFL Opines on “the Role of the Female”
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 17 2014 9:37 AM Is Slate Too Liberal?  A members-only open thread.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 18 2014 11:48 AM Watch the Hilarious First Sketch From Season 4 of Key & Peele
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 18 2014 10:07 AM “The Day It All Ended” A short story from Hieroglyph, a new science fiction anthology.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 18 2014 7:30 AM Red and Green Ghosts Haunt the Stormy Night
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.