Idol Chatter

Anyone familiar with VeggieTales, the popular Christian children’s videos, knows the stunning operatic oeuvre of Larry the Cucumber. LarryBoy’s “Silly Songs” are masterpieces of drama and kitsch, boasting such lyrics as, “Oh where is my hairbrush?… Not fair, no hair, not fair, nowhere, no hair!” Now that VeggieTales is on NBC, however, both the songs and the Bible verse at the show’s end have been dropped–the song for length, the Bible verse because the network required it. What does it say about me that I miss the Silly Songs more than the Bible verse?

Not so for some Christian viewers, who argue that removing the scripture verse is stripping the heart and soul from the series. In a recent column, conservative critic L. Brent Bozell accuses NBC of gutting the Veggies:

…NBC has grown increasingly fierce about editing something out of “VeggieTales”– those apparently unacceptable, insensitive references to God and the Bible. So NBC has taken the very essence of “VeggieTales”–and ripped it out. It’s like “Gunsmoke” without the guns, or “Monday Night Football” without the football…

…They have told parents concerned about their smutty programs like “Will and Grace” that if they’re offended, they have a remote control as an option. The networks have spent millions insisting that we have a V-chip in our TV sets. Change the channel. Block it out.

But when it comes to religious programming–programming that doesn’t even mention Jesus Christ–just watch the hypocrisy. Instead of telling viewers to just change the channel if they don’t like it, or put in a V-chip for Bible verses, they demand to producers that all that outdated old-time religion has to be shredded before broadcast.

In August, VeggieTales’ co-creator, Phil Vischer, blogged:

“So, Phil, will they actually let you talk about God on NBC?” Oh, good question. I figured you’d get to that at some point. The answer is… yes and no. At first we were told everything was ‘okay’ except the Bible verse at the end. Frankly, that news really surprised me, because, heck, we’re talking about NBC here. God on Saturday morning? It didn’t seem likely. Since we’ve started actually producing the episodes, though, NBC has gotten a little more restrictive. (I think they actually sat down and started watching a few VeggieTales videos. “Hey wait–these are religious.”) So it’s gotten trickier, and we’re having to do a little more editing. More than I’m comfortable with? Frankly, yes. But I had already committed to helping Big Idea with this, and I really didn’t want to leave them in a tight spot. …it could be better, but overall it’s not a total loss.

After the media storm, Vischer followed this up on September 21 with a blog post describing NBC’s flip-flopping on the issue:

NBC has now issued a new statement about VeggieTales, refining their earlier statement that cuts were only made for timing, not content. They now acknowledge the cuts they requested and explain that they don’t want to air programming that offends or excludes any individual religious group.

Today, VeggieTales sent out an email reassuring viewers that the show can continue to fulfill its mission despite the NBC changes:

…we knew that certain religious references would not be allowed on a children’s block under current TV network guidelines. And we recognized that we were not going to change the rules of network television overnight.

…would we still prefer to air the un-edited versions of VeggieTales on TV? Absolutely! It’s there where we’re able to share a Bible verse and encourage kids by telling them God made them special and He loves them very much. For now, we’re hoping a new cross section of kids will fall in love with Bob & Larry… Please know our commitment to introducing kids to God continues.

Having watched VeggieTales on NBC the day it premiered, I don’t understand all the fuss. “Minnesota Cuke and the Search for Samson’s Hairbrush” was chock-full of wholesome values and Bibley goodness, inextricably embedded in the plot. Midway through the episode, Bob and Larry page through scripture to explain who Samson was. If this is “sliced and diced,” I say: it’s still yummy.

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