Small Screen: Why does prime-time Yellowstone contain foul language?

You have questions. I have some answers.

Q: I was excited to see a new summer show, “Yellowstone,” that rather looked like a modern-day western. I could only stomach the first 15 minutes. We do not subscribe to Showtime or HBO because of the language that is used in many of their programs and movies, so why does this show think it is OK to subject their viewing audience to foul language on prime time? Please tell me that television shows are not going this direction.

article continues below

A: About 30 years ago, one of my colleagues was outraged that a prime-time network show had a character saying, “You suck!” Clearly the standards have changed over the years, as movies, television and other entertainment reflect changes in the way many people talk in everyday life. If “Yellowstone” shocked you, stay away from the real-life coach ranting in the third season of Netflix’s “Last Chance U.” And Kate Aurthur of BuzzFeed noted back in January that “it makes sense that in a world in which President Trump uses the word ‘shithole’ during a policy meeting, which was then followed by news divisions’ decisions to repeat the obscenity, these (language) standards are always evolving.”

While broadcast television still hews to federal standards, cable does not. Premium channels such as HBO and Showtime, which viewers pay for directly, long ago got more explicit; recent years have seen a growing number of basic-cable stations such as AMC, FX, Syfy, USA and the “Yellowstone”-carrying Paramount Network break the F-word barrier. Aurthur quoted Sera Gamble, co-creator of Syfy’s “The Magicans”: “We all just feel more like ourselves when we can use the word. ... ‘It feels honest. And it’s just a perfect word.” Of course, you disagree. But that just means, as always, that you have to be more selective in your TV viewing — and watch out when a show has a TV-MA rating in your program guide.

Q: I have recorded and watched the entire “Krypton” series. I keep looking for when Superman would finally be on the series or on his own show. Do you know if the Krypton series will resume in the fall?

A: The Superman prequel is expected back on Syfy in 2019. After a San Diego Comic-Con session about the show, Nerdist noted that the “Krypton” plot had erased Superman — though perhaps not permanently. Seg-El (the grandfather of Kal-El, the future Superman) “wants to find a way to both save Krypton and make sure Kal-El comes into being,” the report said. But noted that the show’s makers are happy when “you watch the show for an episode or two and then you forget when Superman is gonna show up.”

Q: Watching “The Staircase” on Netflix I noticed there were many similarities with the first season “Trail & Error,” the NBC sitcom. Is there any plot connection? When is it the DVD of “Trail & Error” going be available?

A: The comedy, now in its second season (and the first is now available on DVD), was indeed inspired by the true-crime documentary.’s Hanh Nguyen called “Trial & Error’s” references to “The Staircase” “flagrant and frequent,” even offering a primer of the similarities. Nguyen said: “While knowledge of ‘The Staircase’ is not necessary to understand ‘Trial & Error,’ it can increase one’s appreciation of the comedy.”

Q: With a new season of “Murphy Brown” coming this fall, what are the chances of more seasons of the original show finally being released on DVD or even Blu-ray?

A: I do not know of any plans for discs beyond the show’s first season. That season reportedly did not sell well. And, as I have said of some previous not-on-DVD shows, there is a big problem with the availability and cost of music rights when it comes to this series. Brett White of noted that the show used different Motown tunes as its opening song as well as integrating songs into episodes; you can’t just cut songs or substitute generic music as some shows have done because “oftentimes Murphy or one of the characters is also singing along with the music.”

Read Related Topics

© Copyright Times Colonist