Editing Dexter: F-Words and Sex Before Gore
That's the clear lesson I've drawn after watching the first two episodes of Showtime's serial killer drama Dexter, edited down for broadcast on CBS starting Sunday. There's lots of changed language -- the potty-mouthed dialogue of some characters (particularly, Dexter’s bawdy sister Deb and hard-edged nemesis Sgt. Doakes) gets a significant scrubbing, as the f-word becomes “fricking” and the m-f-word becomes “motherloving” or “mothersucker.”
But a scene in which killer Dexter Morgan -- a forensic technician for the Miami police who kills killers on the side -- holds up a bloody, severed foot and plops it in a garbage bag, remains intact. And though they won't show Dexter actually cutting his victims' cheeks -- he does that to take a drop of blood he keeps as a trophy -- they do show the dismembered bodies of victims of another murderer, the Ice Truck Killer.
“One of the early CSI: Miami’s showed (a moment) when they opened up a shark and half a torso fell out,” said Nina Tassler, president of entertainment for CBS told me Monday, noting similarly gory scenes in flagship hit CSI and suspense drama Criminal Minds. “The truth is, if you look at that show and look at our schedule…we have lots of shows which fit that mold on our air already.”
Tassler and her colleagues know their history. Her network is still fighting a $550,000 fine from the Federal Communications Commission for pop star Janet Jackson’s exposed breast during Super bowl halftime in 2004. Rival ABC last month drew a $1.4-million fine for an NYPD Blue scene showing co-star Charlotte Ross’ naked behind as she disrobed for a shower.
But showing the death rattle of a guy who just jumped off a highway overpass, the dissected corpse of a murder victim or the clipped off fingertips of a different body? That, it seems, is no problem at all.
Except for the Parents Television Council, a conservative advocacy group which has implored CBS to keep Dexter on cable. “The biggest problem with the series is something that no amount of editing can get around: the series compels viewers to empathize with a serial killer, to root for him to prevail, to hope he doesn’t get discovered,” said PTC president Tim Winter.
I have a story on this whole issue running in tomorrow's Floridian. In the meantime, check out this scene and ask yourself: What would YOU cut out?