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Adventures in Bad TV Dubbing

Adventures in Bad TV Dubbing (photo)

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The world “baloney” is used in casual conversation by only two kinds of people: deli employees and the guys who edit movies for television. I caught “RoboCop” on late night cable for the umpteenth time last week, and quickly got lost in its dystopian future. The film’s setting is a dark, disturbing place. Crime is rampant. The police are run as a private army by a corrupt corporation. Red from “That ’70s Show” holds sway over the drug trade. Which makes it more than a little jarring when badass street thugs start screaming “Baloney!” at each other. Some of the other dubs don’t even make any sense; “Die you bastard!” became “Die you blaggard!” an archaic English slang for a scoundrel. Maybe these crooks spend their days off losing themselves in the pleasures of nineteenth century pirate fiction. Or something.

I guess the assumption is if you’re watching “RoboCop” at four in the morning you’re probably not doing it with enough attention to notice. But TV dubbing always has the opposite effect: it makes you more aware of the artifice of the film and sharpens your concentration on it, particularly because, like the blaggard example, it’s usually so strange.

The intended purpose of such dubbing is to sanitize the profane for a wider audience. But as Patton Oswalt correctly observes in this extremely NSFW clip from his “Werewolves and Lollipops” album, the contortions applied to “dirty words” often result in more, rather than less, perversity. Watch, for instance, this compilation of “Weird Science” TV edits.

Candlewax on their nipples is pretty raunchy, sure, but is candlewax on their pimples any better? If anything, that’s way more twisted (and definitely more painful).

There is at least one way in which bad TV dubbing is valuable: as an insight into what we as a culture find profane (or at least what the gatekeepers of that culture think we find profane). Watched in the way, these dubs can sometimes be informative, and even disturbing. Check out the TV edit highlights from “Pulp Fiction.”

Why is the g-word that rhymes with nuke left alone in Tim Roth’s speech at the beginning of the clip, but the n-word that rhymes with bigger edited out of Samuel L. Jackson’s story in the elevator later? They’re both horrible racial epithets; is one really any worse than the other? According to whoever approved the edit of “Pulp Fiction” for television, the answer is apparently yes.

Maybe whoever decided on that cut just wasn’t paying attention to the Tim Roth scene. That does happen (though in this case it would require a particularly ADD-addled editor since it’s the first scene of the movie, but whatever). How else to explain the TV edit of “The Big Lebowski” where a profane tirade from John Goodman is completely revised to the point of incomprehensibility — “This is what happens when you fuck a stranger in the ass!” becomes the evocative and mysterious “This is what happens when you find a stranger in the Alps!” — while the rather blatant f-bomb dropped right at the end of the scene by another character is left completely alone?

Obviously this world of TV edits is not an exact science. It’s vague, it varies from channel to channel, movie to movie, and usually makes no sense whatsoever. In other words, it’s baloney.


Final Countdown

The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at


Rev Up

Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.


Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.

Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…