American Idol judge Steven Tyler let fly with that most taboo of gerunds last night, dropping the F-bomb in front of a live television audience of 24 million viewers.
Shortly after Casey Abrams finished his rendition of the Maroon 5 song “Harder to Breathe,” the leathery scarf enthusiast let rip. “I mean, there’s millions of people in America that are really angry because, because you pissed them off . . . because you’re so fucking good!” Tyler enthused. “You’ve changed so many people’s minds!”
Once the panel registered what Tyler had said, Fox hastily cut to commercial. When Idol returned from the break, Tyler was seated in his customary spot, with a swatch of duct tape plastered across his mouth.
What viewers didn’t see during the break: Idol executive producer Nigel Lythgoe, Fox head of alternative programming Mike Darnell, and Fox Broadcasting chairman Peter Rice huddling at the judge’s table over Tyler.
Tyler, who generally deploys the word “fucking” as a means to alert listeners that a noun is on the way, eventually ripped the tape from his face, shouting, “You can’t silence me!”
Tyler’s gaffe is unlikely to cause any further agita for Fox. Last summer, an appellate court struck down the FCC’s “fleeting expletives” policy, deeming it “unconstitutionally vague.”
Fox was pleased with the ruling, releasing a statement on July 13 that read in part: “While we will continue to strive to eliminate expletives from live broadcasts, the inherent challenges broadcasters face with live television, coupled with the human element required for monitoring, must allow for the unfortunate isolated instances where inappropriate language slips through.”
The policy was put into place after NBC’s 2003 Golden Globes broadcast when U2 singer Bono enthusiastically accepted his statuette with the words, “This is really, really fuckin' brilliant!”
Even if the FCC does levy a fine, it won’t put much of a bite in Fox’s pocketbook. The penalty for an indecent utterance in a live broadcast is $250,000, or a little more than half the going rate for an ad in Idol ($465,000).