TV shows bleep out bad words for laughs -- ''Arrested Development'' and ''The Osbournes'' purposely censor inappropriate language for comic effect

By Paul Katz
Updated January 17, 2005 at 05:00 AM EST

Sometimes censorship is bleeping hysterical. The high-pitched tone long employed by TV censors to mask inappropriate language is used for comic effect on shows like Fox’s Arrested Development and MTV’s hilarious ads featuring presumably potty-mouthed tykes aping The Osbournes. ”It leaves what’s being said to the audience’s imagination,” explains Arrested series creator Mitchell Hurwitz (some bleeps remain on the show’s DVD). ”And if anyone is offended, they only have their own dirty minds to blame!”

For MTV it’s a chance to take a negative and make it work for the series. ”The bleep is The Osbournes,” says Joe Ortiz, VP of on-air promos for the net. ”We wanted to remind people about the show, but we can’t exactly quote Ozzy.” Adds Jay Mohr, whose 1999 series Action! was an early adapter of the intentional use of the device: ”Bleeping a curse is funnier than listening to some guy say, ‘Gosh darn’ in a tirade a billion times.” Dang!…That’s true.