The following is an article printed in the June 15th, Pioneer Press in response
to it's editting of the season cliffhanger of Xena: Warrior Princess. The
Xenaversity took a stand and let everyone know!!
|Channel 29 takes sword to 'Xena' moves|
|For a view, in microcosm, of television's battle for the mind and
morals of America's children, consider "Xena: Warrior Princess" vs.
"Xena," as you might know, is the syndicated sci-fi epic starring Lucy Lawless. Lawless dresses in (as little) sturdy leather as possible and frequently wields a huge broadsword that is at least as intimidating as her generous physique. Comic-book-style sex and violence mix in a merry brew that has earned the series a solid run around the entire globe.
But here in Minnesota, Paul Harmeyer, president of Xenaversity of Minnesota, the Twin Cities' "Xena" fan club, is not happy. It seems the local Fox affiliate, WFTC, a.k.a. Fox 29, deleted 34 seconds from the recent season finale. Lost were moments from a "love scene" between Xena and Julius Caesar. (If you're a fan, you under- stand. If you're not, just let it slide.) More seconds were cut from a crucifixion sequence.
The former had a topless Xena (viewed from behind) astride the emperor exercising, shall we say, a highly suggestive hip motion. The latter, cross-cut a bit like the famous "Godfather" baptism sequence, had large square nails being driven into the hands of the victim.
Harmeyer, 22, contacted WFTC to complain, but was told the station was merely honoring the terms of its broadcast license. Furthermore, the station said, it was n t likely to offer two versions of the hotter "Xena" episodes - one uncut for its 10 p.m. Sunday first-run, and another cut for its noon Sunday re-run, where kid- dies presumably could lay, eyes on such goings-on.
The man who makes the decisions on what stays and what goes at Fox 29 is General Manager Steve Speadlove. His orders to his staff are to preview syndicated shows as they arrive, usually less than a week before they air, and call him if there's anything that seems a little over the top.
He was called in to check out "Xena's... hip motion and the nail-driving action.
"I took one look," Spendlove says, "and said, 'That's not happening.' "
He says it's the first and only time so far he's cut "Xena."
"But," he says, "I cut movies all the time."
In today's running battle over morality, or the lack thereof, on television, folks Re Spendlove are the people in the middle.
"Look," he says, "we get nothing but congressional threats, and threats from one faction of viewers to clean up TV and protect community standards. Then when we do show some civic responsibility, we get criticized for censorship. There are extremes on both sides. One bunch wants us editing everything, the other wants us to keep our hands off."
This fight is over syndicated programming, shows like "Xena" and "Hercules," that stations like Fox 29 buy directly from distributors. Channel 29's prime time network programming is fed directly from Fox, and usually arrives minutes before it airs, too little time to cut. anything. A bigger problem, though, Spendlove admits, is the wrath he'd face with his Fox bosses in Los Angeles if he applied his own judgment to a show like, say, "The X-Files," which has at times shown action at least as terrifying and gruesome as anything you'll see in a movie or "Xena."
"Yeah," Spendlove laughs, acknowledging the tortured relations most Fox affiliates have with their national masters, "if we cut Fox prime time, it'd be a whole new level, a sublevel, of 'affiliate hell.'
His only advice to Harmeyer and local "Xena" fans is to wait until the season 4 finale runs on cable (the USA Network), where, since cable operates without FCC licensing, they rarely if ever edit for hip motion or crucifixions.
"That's not acceptable," Harmeyer says. "Most of us don't have cable. I think it's ridiculous he'd say that."
Harmeyer says he's looking to expand membership in the local Xenaversity. (Currently "30-35 members," at $15 a year).
He'll have booths at both the PRIDE Festival in Loring Park June 26-27 and at the Convergence sci-fi show in Bloomington over the July 4 weekend.
Media critic Brian Lambert can be reached via email or (651) 228-5424.