Were syndicated airings of TV series always cut?

Discussion in 'TV on DVD and Blu-ray' started by MatthewA, Aug 15, 2007.

  1. MatthewA

    MatthewA Lead Actor

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    Being born in the 1980s, I do not remember a time when off-network reruns of a network TV show were not cut to sell more commercial time. Of course, it wasn't until The Simpsons were syndicated that I had any idea of this practice.

    However, when I got into film collecting, I noticed that some 16mm syndie prints had physical edits made on the prints themselves, and others were untouched and ran about 25 minutes (for sitcoms). I still have some Viacom syndie prints of the Mary Tyler Moore Show and the Bob Newhart Show which escaped cutting and still have "place commercials here" tags.

    What was the policy of most TV stations more than 20 years ago? And what of videotaped shows, like the Norman Lear series?
     
  2. Joseph DeMartino

    Joseph DeMartino Lead Actor

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    Yes, shows were always cut to insert additional commercials for off-netowrk reruns, and regardless of whether they were taped or filmed. (It was a matter of time, not medium. Even show shot on film were eventually distributed on videotape rather than acutal film.)

    When Star Trek first went into syndication, back when shows actually were distributed on film, local station editors would physically cut the film themselves, and discarded the bits of film. More than a few local editors found themselves unexpectedly befriended by girls in their late teens and early twenties who were happy to take this unwanted material off their hands. There was soon quite a brisk trade in original film frames (often mounted in cardboard slide holders) at conventions, in catalogs and through ads in fanzines. [​IMG]

    Regards,

    Joe
     
  3. RickER

    RickER Producer

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    Not here. In the 70s Star Trek was not cut here in Tulsa, OK, however when i went to Hayward, CA to see family it was. It was cut bad, as in the edits were obvious! Of course it was only 2 or 3 minutes, not the almost 10 minutes they cut from 52 minute shows now.
     
  4. Jeff#

    Jeff# Screenwriter

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    The excellent quality reissued film prints of Hawaii Five-O turned up on local stations across the country in the 1990s. They also included all of the 2 parters and 2 hour shows. WTXF in Phildelphia aired them uncut (50 minutes in a 60 minute slot) with limited commerical interruption. That was when I first collected the series (on VHS) and recording them most in LP speed and portions of a few in SP it took 71 tapes!!!
     
  5. Jeff*H

    Jeff*H Supporting Actor

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    Syndicated cuts really varied station by station in the 70s and 80s. Going back to "Hawaii Five-0" as an example, WOR aired the 16MM prints of the show in the 80's and chopped a few minutes out of each. When they got the new prints in the 90's, they made new edits but still continued to chop them. However, WOFL in Orlando had these same prints but aired them unedited (50 minutes).

    Nowadays, syndicators deliver prints to the station already chopped, and the stations have the option of making additional cuts for even more commercials.
     
  6. ScottR

    ScottR Cinematographer

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    As far back as I can remember, the syndicated versions were indeed cut.
     
  7. Mark Y

    Mark Y Supporting Actor

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    I think it may have depended on the show, and the company distributing it, as well as the station that aired it. Half the fun of independent local TV "back in the day" was catching a fuzzy signal (when the weather and the wind were right) from an out-of-town TV station and seeing a show on some other channel in another city, where a show might either (1) not be cut, or (2) be cut in different places. There certainly were cuts being made on some shows that affected all syndicated prints (which tended to be distributed on 16mm film), but it wasn't until about the mid-1980s that pretty much across the board, almost all shows started to be distributed on pre-edited tapes, with the same edits no matter what station aired it. One of my friends used to call this "sneaky editing," because unlike in the past, where a station might drop an entire scene (such as the "tag" from the end of a show), now an episode might have a minute cut here, a line cut there, a few lines cut here, where if you hadn't seen that episode numerous times, you might not immediately notice the edits. I know of people who used to trade tapes and do their own reconstructions of, say, "Lost In Space," using a tape from one station and re-inserting cut scenes from a showing in another city. I remember "Make Room For Daddy" being cut one way on WFBN-Channel 66 in Chicago, and cut in different places on Nick At Nite. MTV/Nick ran "The Monkees" uncut (apart from some rather abrupt fades) while the versions aired in syndication at the same time were chopped by about 5 minutes. Nowadays (well, for the most part since the late 1980s), it's a lot more "streamlined."
     
  8. Jeff#

    Jeff# Screenwriter

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    I'm telling you, Jeff. I saw the remastered Five-O reruns on a Philadelphia station in the mid 90s, and they were definitely uncut from start to finish. 50 minutes is complete! I didn't save the tapes though, because I got rid of VHS when I got my first DVD player when I moved some years back.
     
  9. AndyMcKinney

    AndyMcKinney Cinematographer

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    As someone else already said, although most off-network reruns have been edited since they were first distributed, this was (and is) not always the case. Remember, back in the late '60s and early '70s, stations didn't sell all that much commercial time. It's quite likely that smaller, independent stations could've run shows unedited due to lack of paid ad space.

    Before the 1980s, all filmed shows were syndicated on film as uncut prints. Its was up to the individual TV stations to do as little (or as much) editing as they needed.

    Someone else here also mentioned how editing on video (a line here, a line there) made things less obvious. I guess that's all down to a matter of convenience: it's far easier to edit out a one or two-minute continuous segment of film than to go and try to physically splice out a line here and there. That's why whole scenes were often edited out at the local level, and consequently, the edits were often both obvious (the "pop" in the soundtrack being the most recognisable clue) and sometimes, made little sense (i.e. an episode referring to something that happened in the "missing" scene).

    Some stations, though, even into the early 1990s, would sometimes run something unedited, even a few cable networks. I recall TNT doing this with Logan's Run. I almost suspect it was down to lack of advertiser support than anything, but I certainly didn't mind! I know these showings were unedited, though, because at the time I still had ropey CBS off-airs to compare them with.

    I seem to remember when the "edited on video" version of Star Trek was sold into syndication in the mid '80s, and that it was being marketed as "edited, but the edits make more sense now, since it's just a line or two of dialogue here and there, rather than entire sequences being cut". Of course, another benefit of this "redistribution" was the improved picture quality, as some stations (like WPIX) were running really tatty-looking 16mm prints (I remember when WPIX took Star Trek off the late-night schedule for awhile, and ran a commercial saying that it would be back, but was having a "facelift" or something like that. A side-benefit of this to me, though, was they replaced it on the schedule with Space: 1999, which I hadn't seen in years!).
     
  10. Jeff*H

    Jeff*H Supporting Actor

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    Dude, you really need to read my post more closely before you comment. I mentioned some stations ran these episodes uncut and others cut them up. My post notes that 50 minutes is uncut.
     
  11. Jeff#

    Jeff# Screenwriter

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    No problem, Jeff. It's just that a few people on this board were getting on my nerves in other threads. [​IMG]

    I remember the WWOR prints of Five-O were edited, so I avoided them in favor of WTXF's instead.
     
  12. PianoPlayer

    PianoPlayer Stunt Coordinator

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    My local UHF station ran syndicated "Brady Bunch" reruns for several years in the late '70s -- not only were they completely unedited with all bumpers, the first several episodes from the first season even included the original network "next week" previews! (Wish I'd had a VCR back then, since these previews are missing on the DVD sets.)

    That same station then abruptly began editing the episodes by 1979 -- it was quite jarring, really, to see 22-minute episodes where I used to see 25-minute ones. (When I wrote them a complaint letter about it, they replied, "The FCC allows us 16 minutes of commercials per hour.") They also began editing "Star Trek" episodes for censorship reasons (they were a CBN affiliate), but that's another story.
     
  13. MatthewA

    MatthewA Lead Actor

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    The FCC allows it, but doesn't require it.

    This suggests that the notion that the original negatives of the Brady Bunch were cut to conform to the syndication edits questionable at best.
     
  14. Ethan Riley

    Ethan Riley Producer

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    I think syndicated editing must have been going on since the dawn of time...because if you notice in the extras in the "I Love Lucy" dvds, they are always mentioning scenes that were cut before the first syndication airings (and occasionally restored for the dvds). In other words, this has been going on for at least 50 years!

    I can confirm that Star Trek, at least, was almost always cut for syndies in the 70s. I was too young to have seen the episodes in first-run; the only reason I even knew things had been cut was because in the late 70s, those fotonovels came out. And the fotonovels always depicted scenes that hadn't aired on my local channel (KTLA in Los Angeles at the time).
     
  15. Hank Dearborn

    Hank Dearborn Supporting Actor

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    Once syndicators trashed their 16mm libraries and only sent the shows out on pre-cut tape, you could no longer get a show complete no matter where it ran. But in the 80s, if you hunted around, you could find smaller stations that ran the shows complete. The smaller the market, the better chance you had of getting an unedited show.
     
  16. Brian Wolman

    Brian Wolman Auditioning

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    1) On WPIX in New York (NOW THE CW) in the early 70's there were a handful of Star Trek episodes that were shown uncut from time to time. Most of them were cut by the local editors however. I remember visiting my aunt and uncle in New Jersey (mid seventies), and watched an episode from a New Haven CT station. I was so excited because I saw a few scenes not present in the new york version.

    Flash forward to the 80's My local PBS station boasted they were going to show STAR TREK complete and uncut. They showed a sample episode (ARENA) during a pledge drive. When I saw it was a edited on video (by paramount) syndicated print, I called them up and complained. The next thing I know; the pledge drivers were refuting me on air, insisting their prints were uncut! They had no idea....or didnt care....


    2) WSBK in Boston during the late 80's showed uncut network versions of the Bob Newhart show in syndication. They chose not to edit them.

    3) The 5th season episodes of Get Smart usually are shown uncut but sped up, as they ran a minute shorter than the rest of the seasons.
     
  17. MatthewA

    MatthewA Lead Actor

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    Maryland Public TV got uncut St. Elsewhere in the mid-1990s, but some episodes were shortened to 46 minutes with very bad fade-outs. And these cut ones (about 10-15% of the total episodes) ended with a generic still MTM logo after the custom MTM logo. Just think; syndication cuts for public TV; your tax dollars at work!

    Odyssey (now Hallmark) showed ALF uncut in 1999. They looked fine, but the way my cable company got it there were wavy lines in the picture. Which proves that Lionsgate was lying with the DVD situation.

    Canada seems to be somewhat better about this than the USA, but not completely so; The Golden Girls, when it was on Prime Network, was the 1990 cut syndication package (same as what my local CBS station got, with different cuts than Lifetime).
     
  18. Jack Platt

    Jack Platt Stunt Coordinator

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    How come some shows use Time Compression more often than cutting, like The Bob Newhart Show for example? Wouldn't that be better than the poor hack up jobs that syndicated stations and TV Land are doing with their shows? Thank God for my owning the complete sets of shows like The Brady Bunch and Gilligan's Island. The syndicated and TV Land runs have more holes in those shows than swiss cheese!

    Did you know that in Canada, there is some law that says they can't censor shows? I head that in Australia, The Brady Bunch is shown uncut. (According to Brady World, the long-ago deleted, now only available on DVD, skinny dipping scene is still intact down under.)

    Why can't they offer uncut shows in the USA?

    Jack
     
  19. Kevin L McCorry

    Kevin L McCorry Second Unit

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    If such a law exists, it gets broken often. All thru my youth, I saw television shows being edited for time, on both the CBC and CTV networks. Edits on the CBC tended to be done with film splices, and the soundtrack would go silent for a second at the edit point. Space: 1999 on CBC was the most memorable example. Nearly every time an episode aired, a different set of edits occurred. Sometimes, CBC would make the edit coming back from a commercial break so that it might not be as obvious. I remember CBC still doing this sort of editing as late as 1983 with its airings of Dallas. As for CTV, I always preferred to watch television shows on American network stations because they would be uncut there (of course when cable companies performed program substitutions/simulcasts, viewing the American network broadcasts became impossible). As late as 1989, CTV was editing scenes out of TV movies like The Trial of the Incredible Hulk just for more commercial time.

    Going back to Space: 1999, YTV Canada cut scenes out of episodes in its 1990-2 run of the series but claimed otherwise. The fact that the scenes often involved violence or implied violence (blood on a tunic) or a heated exchange between the Commander and his chief technician, would suggest that the edits were made for content and not time. Most episodes were also time-compressed, even when it was unnecessary- in the case of the slightly shorter second season episodes.

    I do know that Prime's reruns of M*A*S*H were the edited syndicated versions, in as much as a memorable scene where a nurse throws a pot of fudge at a door after Maj. Houlihan gives her a tonguelashing was always missing on Prime. And as for Star Trek, CBC and Space used to air the edited, 46-minute versions until about 1998 when complete episodes started making the rounds again on Space.
     
  20. Harry-N

    Harry-N Cinematographer

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    In Philadelphia, STAR TREK got its first off-network re-runs on the local indie at the time, Channel 48, WKBS-TV. Initially, the series was cut locally by the station, angering the die-hard Trekkies. So the station responded by announcing that they would air the show complete and uncut and in original network running order. That was a nice gesture for a commercial station to make.

    Harry
     

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