Thursday, November 11, 2010

Video for the Day: Conan O'Brien, Cable-TV Censorship and Die Hard 2


Because I don't have cable in the apartment (and, if the inclinations of my roommates are any indication, there may not be any cable for the rest of my year-long lease there; oh, what we will sacrifice to save money), I wasn't able to join in the Conan O'Brien lovefest going on among my Facebook/Twitter friends upon the premiere of his new late-night show on TBS Monday night. This saddens me just a little bit; I'm not a rabid Conan O'Brien fan, by any means, but I find his self-deprecating shtick amusing and charming nevertheless, and my sympathies were entirely with him during the Jay Leno/NBC clusterfuck that got him unceremoniously bumped off his Tonight Show hosting gig and led him to quit the network entirely. I have been able to catch up on bits and pieces of his new show on his TBS show page online, though, so I don't feel like I'm totally out of the pop-culture loop.

On Wednesday, one film critic I follow on Twitter posted the following about Tuesday night's episode of Conan: "Conan calling out the TBS censor over Die Hard 2's "Mr. Falcon" line was GENIUS. So glad to have Conan back."

My eyes popped out at this for two reasons: 1) As some of you may have guessed from this post and various tweets I've posted every so often, I'm an apologist for Renny Harlin's much-maligned but still hugely entertaining follow-up to the original Die Hard; and 2) I've sat through TBS's censored version of Die Hard 2, and it is one of the most unintentionally hilarious things I've ever seen on cable.

I could make a whole list of what's so amusing about this particular dubbing job—the cheesy substitutes for the various verbal obscenities, the Bruce Willis overdubber that sounds nothing like Willis—but this assemblage of clips from the TV print sums it up economically:

Yes, folks: Among other moments of hilarity, McClane's famous "Yippee-kayyay, motherfucker" quip has been transformed into "Yippee-kayyay, Mr. Falcon"! Um, what?

I didn't think, though, that this would ever become a rich source of comedy on a late-night talk show. But it finally has, as you can see here, especially from 4:52 onward:

The whole segment is an amusing (if safe) satire of cable-TV censorship double standards, and while there are some solid punches landed even before O'Brien unveils his Die Hard 2 clincher...well, yes, the clincher is still a stroke of genius of the "it's funny because it's true" variety.

O'Brien, by the way, isn't quite right about one thing. While there's technically no one named "Mr. Falcon" in the film, Ramon Esperanza (Franco Nero), the deposed South American general whom Colonel Stuart (William Sadler) is trying to extricate from imprisonment, does take the code name "Falcon" over CB radio. And being that Esperanza is the one flying the plane that McClane ends up blowing to bits with his lighter in its climax...well, there is a certain logic, then, to having McClane give a kiss-off line of "Yippee-kayyay, Mr. Falcon."

That, of course, doesn't nullify O'Brien's agreeable satirical intent in using this particularly egregious example of clumsy cable censorship in this skit. I mean, it speaks for itself!

And yes, I have a near-unhealthy obsession with Die Hard 2—a film that, I'd argue, works in context of the series as the exuberantly decadent cowboy fantasy that John McClane pretends to inhabit, at least every once in a while, in John McTiernan's original. One day, perhaps, I'll go into more detail on this line of thought (though that blog post I linked to earlier coupling this sequel with Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom already got at some of the logic behind that assertion).

In the meantime: If anyone knows of any other uproarious bits of awkward network- and cable-TV censorship of especially profane theatrical films, I'd love to hear 'em in the comments section!

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