The CBS drama, “The Good Fight” might be losing its showrunners after CBS (ironically) censored a segment about Chinese censorship in one of the show’s most recent episodes.
The series, a spinoff of “The Good Wife,” airs on CBS’s online platform CBS All Access and, unlike its parent program, focuses less on the soap opera-like lives of Chicago defense attorneys, and more on tackling “current events” and “Trump-era politics” and occasionally includes “an animated musical short that digs into controversial political issues of the day with an explanatory style similar to ‘Schoolhouse Rock!'” according to The New York Times.
This time, though, the short disappeared from the final program, which aired online last week, and was replaced, instead, by a black screen with white type reading, “CBS HAS CENSORED THIS CONTENT.”
It turns out, the animated short was an explanation of how China deprives its citizens of unsanitized content, and “included a host of references to topics that have been censored on the internet in China. Those include Falun Gong, a spiritual movement that is repressed by the Chinese government; Tiananmen Square, a reference to the violent crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in 1989; Winnie-the-Pooh, to whom China’s president, Xi Jinping, is often compared; and the letter N, used by critics of the recent change to the Chinese Constitution that lets Mr. Xi stay in power indefinitely.”
CBS reportedly panicked over the short, fearing that Chinese broadcasters, who syndicate some of the All Access programming, would terminate their relationships with the network over the short, and would “expose the greater CBS family to further repercussions,” according to IndieWire.
“We had concerns with some subject matter in the episode’s animated short. This is the creative solution that we agreed upon with the producers,” the network added in a statement.
The network’s brass informed “The Good Fight” showrunners that they’d be pulling the short, prompting the showrunners to threaten to quit.
“In response, the [showrunners] reportedly told CBS that they would halt production on the show if the segment was excised completely,” IndieWire reports, and the pair were forced to reach a compromise with the network, where the censorship message would appear onscreen for around ten seconds during the part of the show that would have hosted the musical short.
Ultimately, the censorship message served to reinforce the point being made by “The Good Fight” writers: that the Chinese market is so huge, it’s able to exert undue pressure on American broadcasters who need the Chinese market to survive. The issue has become especially difficult to navigate recently, as Chinese censors have greatly limited how much foreign content is being shown on Chinese networks and in Chinese movie theaters. Each individual program must now be vetted by Chinese authorities and no foreign program can be shown on television during prime time.
American networks, like CBS, are often willing to comply with China’s rules in order to keep making money from the country’s consumers. Films like “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “Rocketman” were both censored for “offensive” content in order to make it into the Chinese market.