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. Follow her on Twitter.

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.

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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.