CBS Television Distribution

Not even Captain Kirk could get away with always doing whatever he wanted. Anybody making mass media is subject to having their work censored.

There's a notable obscenity trial from 1961 called Jacobellis v. Ohio, wherein Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart described a now infamous threshold for what is and isn't acceptable. Rather than come up with any clear definition of obscenity, Potter wrote, "I know it when I see it," and in doing so, set an unfortunate precedent for future censorship. While there are hard limits, there's also a lot of gray area in "acceptable" content. So much of what's deemed vulgar or unwatchable comes down to the governing body or whoever is entrusted with censorship. So, one man's "unwatchably violent" could be another's "T.J. Hooker."

This same discussion regarding inconsistency in censorship was true in the '80s. Specifically, it was a problem William Shatner found himself up against as the star of a few different programs post-Star Trek. T.J. Hooker was broadcasted by two different companies. So, his experience on that show made him an expert in network politics. Originally, the show was a prime-time ABC program, but then that channel dropped T.J. Hooker from its schedule. It was then picked up by CBS, who slotted it for later at night. 

"We've found CBS is much more picayune in the area of censorship, on the amount of violence that can be shown. So, we have a much tighter reign on violence than we had at ABC for 8 o'clock. I'm seeing two views on censorship policies. I can say that CBS is much more stringent." 

Shatner noted that the change in airtime didn't just affect the show's content. Whereas ABC's budget for the primetime T.J. Hooker had been around $900,000 per episode, CBS slashed the budget when it shifted the program to late-night.

"All the other cop shows are spending well over $1 million," Shatner told The Times Herald. "When you're asked to pare it down, you're really cutting muscle. The basis of an action show is action. So, we've had to be clever. We've had to invent chases instead of car crashes. We have more character conflict." 

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