Religious organizations and the TV standards pressure group Mediawatch UK are thought to be behind an orchestrated campaign to have the broadcast canceled.
With its 8,283 swear words (it has officially the highest swear-word count of any show, though chorus members are counted individually and account for much of that total) and characters who include a diaper fetishist, a she-male and an f-word fuelled fight between God, Jesus and Satan, the prospect of the show being broadcast complete on BBC 2 has outraged hundreds of viewers. Hundreds may not sound like many, but the most-complained about program in 2004 was an episode of “Big Brother” which attracted 243 complaints and was considered a major controversy. The industry regulator Ofcom has already received 418 complaints about Springer, and the BBC has also had complaints though it won’t say how many.
According to the television business magazine Broadcast, the UK director of Mediawatch, John Meyer, has written to BBC chairman Michael Grade asking him to cancel the broadcast. Beyer told the magazine, “License fee payers do not expect the BBC to be pushing back the boundaries of taste and decency in this way.”
The uproar is ironic given that the show’s co-writer, Stewart Lee, told Playbill On-Line shortly before it was premiered at the National Theatre that he’d moved away from working in television (he has had several comedy TV shows) because the BBC gave less air time to quality work. Lee, however (currently working on a new project in Germany), is likely to be defiant. “If people are offended by the swearing,” he said at that time, “then I’m offended that they’re offended.” He also explained that the swearing was so prevalent for a dramatic purpose: “They swear so much that eventually you realize what they’re trying to say beneath it — ‘I love you, I’m lonely, help me.’”
The broadcast of the show is in front of a live audience at the Cambridge Theatre and will star David Soul in the title role. It is scheduled to be broadcast on BBC 2 on Saturday, Jan. 8 at 10 PM. In addition to Soul, the broadcast of the show will include many members of the original cast, including David Bedella (as Satan), Ben Lake and Alison Jiear. Soul took over the role of Springer from Michael Brandon.