Editing Movies for TV a Frustrating Challenge

In the sultry and very steamy film “9 1/2 Weeks,” there’s a scene where a sexually-obsessed young woman (Kim Basinger) becomes aroused while viewing slides and begins to, well . . . let’s just say she’s alone and she sweats quite a bit.

A few weeks ago, KUSI-TV (Channel 51) aired the movie with only a brief glimpse of the scene, which was almost completely cut out of Channel 51’s version of the film. They didn’t show any sweat.

A week later, KTLA-TV (Channel 5) out of Los Angeles showed the same movie. But it was noticeably different from the version shown on Channel 51. The Basinger solo scene was much longer, much racier and far sweatier, although it was still much shorter than the version seen in movie theaters. (Even that version doesn’t show as much sweat as the original uncut one now available in video stores.)

Such differences are not unusual. There are no guidelines or set rules for showing films on TV; each station decides for itself what it will and will not show.


In the case of “9 1/2 Weeks,” which flirted with an X rating when it was released in 1986, Channel 51 purchased an edited-for-TV version, pre-cut by the distributor. Channel 5, though, purchased the unedited theatrical version, and used its own editors to cut down the film.

“The way ‘9 1/2 Weeks’ was edited for TV it was so sterile there was not much left,” KTLA supervisor of program editing Ray Cipperley said.

KTLA purchased the theatrical copy of “9 1/2 Weeks” partly out of disappointment with the version of “Brazil” that it aired in late December. The edited-for-television edition of “Brazil” featured a completely different ending than the theatrical release and attracted poor ratings, Cipperley said.

“With Brazil, they not only made it sterile, they altered it for TV,” Cipperley said.

Channel 51 prefers to purchase edited-for-television versions of movies. In some cases, the station will further edit the edited-for-TV version of a movie, particularly if it is scheduled for early in the evening when children are still awake.

“Even the edited-for-television versions can be harsh,” Channel 51 film director Gloria Brownlee said.

The Federal Communications Commission doesn’t offer the stations any set guidelines on what words it can or cannot use, or what type of scene is too racy. Most stations rely on viewer reaction to help gauge the boundaries of taste.

“I think what the FCC wants is to know we’re making a sincere effort,” KTTY-TV (Channel 69) general manager Jim Harmon said.

Harmon takes the film editing very seriously, reviewing all movies himself. He said he will often call other people into his office to watch films, simply to get a different perspective. They walk a fine line between cleaning up the movie and gutting it.

“If they’re not artists (editing) a film you really have a problem,” Harmon said. “You don’t want to destroy a film.”

These days, most stations also rely heavily on disclaimers to warn viewers of “adult situations.” Last week, KCOP-TV (Channel 13) in Los Angeles aired the unedited theatrical version of “All That Jazz,” but ran several disclaimers warning viewers that the movie’s nasty words and steamy scenes--the heart and soul of the movie--were intact.

Other movies, though, provide editors with real challenges.

“Some movies are made around nothing else but narcotics,” Harmon said. “Those kind are very difficult to cut.”

When she was called into news director Nancy Bauer’s office Friday morning, KNSD-TV (Channel 39) reporter Rory Bennett thought she might be getting a raise. Instead, she was laid off as a part of a “staff reduction,” the station says. Bennett joins Doug Curlee, Whitney Southwick and Dr. Harvey Shapiro on the roster of recently dumped Channel 39 staffers. A reduction in the reporting staff seems incongruous with the big money Gillett Communications has pumped into the station in the last year, but it is simply a “reorganization” of the way the station spends money, general manager Neil Derrough said.

“We feel we’re heavy in the reporting ranks,” he said. “We’re not looking for mass layoffs.”

Dayle Ohlau is “furious” at producer Mel Buxbaum’s accusation that she was fired from the staff of the fledgling Roger Hedgecock show for “insubordination.” Labeling the first attempt at a show a “complete disaster,” Ohlau said she quit last Monday because she couldn’t work with Buxbaum. “He has no conception at all of how to put a show together,” she said. Ohlau praised Hedgecock’s performance on the show taped earlier this month, but labeled Buxbaum as “incompetent.”

Former assistant producer Tracy Benson, who quit when Ohlau left, said the show is “not very well organized.” Both Ohlau and Benson were working without contracts and have not been paid for their work on the program. Both said they were told they’d be paid when the pilot was sold.

Buxbaum, citing Ohlau’s threat of litigation and a desire not to get into a spitting match, refused to comment on Ohlau’s statements.

Hedgecock has been shamelessly using his KSDO-AM (1130) radio program to promote the TV show and arrange for the studio audience for Thursday night’s second attempt at taping a useable first show, which is scheduled to air Feb. 5. This show will focus on the controversy surrounding the naming of the convention center . . . . Hedgecock has been trying to syndicate some of his KSDO interviews with celebrities. No takers so far.

Daniels Cablevision has a verbal agreement to join other local cable systems offering 41 San Diego Padres home games to subscribers on a pay-per-view basis this season.

The sale of Ranch and Coast magazine to the New Jersey-based Micromedia Affiliates Inc. has already resulted in one improvement. At least one free-lance writer, unpaid since last September, finally received a check. The $2-million purchase of the magazine reportedly included the retirement of $1 million in debt owed by the previous owner, Chartwell Publishing Co.

The syndicated tipster show “Manhunt!” is continuing its efforts to bring the Green River Killer to justice, while patting itself on the back as often as possible. A recent “Manhunt!” update suggested that the local Metropolitan Task Force had imposed a media blackout after the avalanche of calls resulting from last month’s “Manhunt!” show. In fact, the task force has not changed its policy, says task force spokeswoman Sgt. Liz Foster. Despite a mountain of false leads, Foster still believes the show and others like it are a good thing. “It’s worth it if we get one tip out of it,” she said.