Newsbrief: Nickelodeon Censors Beverly Hillbillies Marijuana References 12/20/02

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Thanks to alert watchdogs at the Nickelodeon TV network, Nick at Nite and TV Land viewers are being spared a series of oblique references to marijuana sprinkled across episodes of the 1960's hit sit-com, the Beverly Hillbillies. In doing so, executives for Nickelodeon sounded like a character out of another widely syndicated sit-com: the preacher's wife on the Simpsons, who famously lobbies for more laws under the battle cry, "what about the children?"

"There are drug references and kids would be watching," Nickelodeon spokesman Paul Ward told Insight Magazine on Sunday. "The show was edited because a lot of viewers were kids. We have a responsibility as programmers, and part of that responsibility is telling kids that recreational drug use is not okay."

Not that Jed Clampett -- or even Elly Mae, for that matter -- ever advocated marijuana use. In fact, the bits that were too much for Nickelodeon reflect nothing more than a passing nod to the cultural phenomenon that was marijuana in the 1960s. In one censored episode from 1968, in which the Hillbillies hire an Italian chef, Jethro mistakenly refers to "marinara sauce" as "marijuana sauce." In a 1967 episode, Granny was detained by police among a crowd of Griffith Park hippies when she told the officer she was "looking for a little pot" -- to cook in, that is. And in 1969, a deputy said that Elly Mae's bear, which was dressed like a hippie, "probably smoked pot."

That daring comedy somehow made it past the CBS censors when the show first aired, as well as numerous syndications in the decades since then. But it couldn't make it past the sharp eyes at Nickelodeon, and they aren't changing their minds. Ward told Insight that to restore the jokes now might somehow send the message that Nickelodeon advocates drug use. "A lot of money, time and effort would have to be spent," he said. "It would seem a long way to go just to advocate drug references."

Given Nickelodeon's hatchet-job on the Hillbillies, which must be viewed either as craven corporate cowardice or pandering to PC pressures, committed viewers of classic comedy may start to rethink their support of a network that markets itself as appealing to TV purists but feels free to wield the censor's pen.

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