No way that NBC’s satirical Saturday Night Live would bow to pressure from advertisers? Way! Consider the evidence: On Feb. 22 SNL producers changed the content of a Tom Arnold/Phil Hartman skit involving a major advertiser, General Motors. ”Tall Tales From the Recession” originally depicted the chairmen of Ford and GM competing to see who could order more layoffs. But when screeners for Saturn, a GM subsidiary, routinely previewed the show and objected to its premise, SNL‘s producers replaced Ford and GM’s names with fictional ones.
”Our company is not in the position to change scripts,” says Bruce MacDonald, vice president of communications for Saturn. ”Our job is to decide whether to place our ads.” Arnold says SNL‘s producers thought they might lose ads if they ran the skit but first said, ”What the hell.” Then, ”on Saturday, I looked at the cue cards and the names weren’t there.” He adds that on Roseanne, ”We wouldn’t even think of doing [a skit] like that because we would lose advertising.”
An SNL spokeswoman insists it’s ”not unusual” for producers to alter scripts, but wouldn’t comment on whether skits had been changed in the past to avoid offending advertisers. ”Our shows are continually in the writing process,” she says. ”We change things a lot.” So does GM. Two days after the , skit aired, it announced the closing of 12 plants.