How TV Works: What @KellyOsbourne Said That Everyone Missed – @GiulianaRancic, Patchouli “and Weed”

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Photo Credit Giuliana Rancic on Twitter

On a recent episode of “Fashion Police, ” Giuliana Rancic’s comments about 18 year old Disney Star  Zendaya’s hair at the Academy Awards stirred up a firestorm of controversy.

In case you missed it, here’s a recap of what has happened to date.

1). Giuliana Rancic mentioned the words Patchouli within the same sentence as “Yeah, maybe weed” in reference to Zendaya’s locs. Contrary to what you have read elsewhere, the video clearly shows she NEVER said “and weed.”  Pay attention.

Update:  The video showing that Kathy Griffin said the words “or weed” has been removed from YouTube.

2)  Zendaya responded to the comments.

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3)  Rancic’s co-host, Kelly Osbourne, vented her frustrations on Twitter.  Pay close attention to the wording. “…everyone involved”  and “I did not make the weed coment.” (sic)

Kelly Osborne Giuliana Rancic Zendaya

4)  Giuliana Rancic issued an apology. First on Twitter:

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Then on air:

5) Zendaya responded to the apology.

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6) Kelly Osbourne quit the show.

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I am a television producer.  As such, I once worked on the set of a television show where an idea that was introduced to an episode that I was producing was CLEARLY a bad choice. I felt like it would have been insulting to all of the talent involved. While it wasn’t stereotypical, the connotation of what they wanted the last scene of the episode to be was egregious.

In fact, there were several incidents on the same show and one was so blatantly stereotypical that I couldn’t believe that it was being considered.

I wanted to stew in my “righteous indignation” and wallow in the “how dare they” and “aren’t we past this” but I didn’t.  Because I realized that not every person who fosters the spirit of stereotypes is aware that they are doing it.

Instead, I SPOKE UP.  I used each incident as a teaching moment for the Executive Producer who had the final say about what went to the network and challenged other members of the crew to see things through the eyes of others.

What does this have to do with the Zendaya controversy?

Producers are ultimately responsible for what appears on television.  They are responsible for what they give the network to “vet”.  When a television show is being shot,  there is RARELY just “one take.”  According to Kelly Osborne, the words in question were recorded “three times” and US Weekly states it was “in front of an audience of about 30 people.”

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Let’s look at how TV works:

1)  No matter what you believe about “reality” television, there IS a script. Without a script, there would be no structure to the show. There needs to be a story line in each episode of the show.  Now, it may be “loosely scripted” which means that the express goal of the episode is accomplished within certain “beats” of action with no rules about how that action is achieved.  There are times when talent is handed or coached to use specific verbiage.  Nothing is ever shot without a producer present. And it is their job to make sure they get everything necessary to complete the episode. It is very common for the Producer to prod the talent off camera by:

a) asking them to repeat what they said another way
b) asking the talent to expound on what they think the talent meant to say or
c) telling the talent what they should say.

I’ve done it.

2)  Once the episode is shot, it goes into an edit.  There is typically a Story Producer who oversees the edit.  So, not only has the first producer seen the live version of the comments, now another producer and editor are aware of what was said.  Then, the episode goes BACK to the executive producer for approval before it is submitted to the Network.  At ANY point, the decision could have been made NOT to send those comments to the network.

3) The Network makes the final decision about what is aired based on what has been submitted to them.  Throughout this process, there are a flurry of “notes.” The Story Producer will give the editor verbal or written “notes” about what to include and what to cut out.  The Executive Producer may give “notes” about changing the angle of the story. The Network gives “notes” about what works in the episode and what does not.  It’s not live television.  A plethora of eyes have seen the “locked” version of the episode.

So, what happened with this episode?

Quite simply:  several people, not just Giuliana Rancic, felt perfectly comfortable with the “or weed” reference.

Let’s go back to Kelly’s words.  Specifically two points:

1) “…everyone involved.” She was not solely calling out Rancic for her comments.  She was calling out “…everyone involved” in the process of getting those comments on air, which included the producers and the Network.

2)  “I did not make the weed coment.” (sic) Now, let’s look at an extended version of the clip, paying close attention to this EXCHANGE which starts at 1:19 into the clip. By saying she did not make the weed comment, she clearly implied that someone other than Giuliana made the initial comment.  Since there is only one other woman on the panel, we know who said it.

Rancic:  “I feel like she smells like patchouli oil.”

Kathy Griffin: “or weed”

Rancic: “Yeah, maybe weed.”

The conversation about Zendaya’s hair actually started with a reference to her “Poetic Justice braids” by co-host Brad Goreski.  *sigh*  Braids are not the same as locs, but this isn’t a dissertation about the entire episode or the often blurred lines in comedy, so forgive me for digressing.

“and weed” is what the media has been feeding you all of this time when what was really said was “or weed.”

Who introduced weed into the conversation?

Kathy Griffin.

Why has no one made mention of that? If the phrase was deemed racially offensive, why would she not be held as culpable as Rancic?

Giuliana was actually expressing herself after Kathy Griffin mentioned “or weed.”  Griffin was also the first person to quip about how it is now legal in some states.

Some have mentioned that if a comedian such as Joan Rivers made the same remarks, people would have taken it as a joke and gotten over it.

Does this mean that Kathy Griffin’s D-List humor was so irrelevant that people felt it better to attribute the “or weed” remark entirely to Giuliana?