Is it the end of decency as we know it or just good television? "Cochran … motherfucker," Sarah Paulson's Marcia Clark said during Tuesday's episode of American Crime Story: The People v. OJ Simpson. With the utterance of those two words, FX caused hordes of viewers—those who weren't too busy clutching their pearls, anyway—to take to social media, CBS News reports. "Did … did The People v OJ Simpson just break the basic cable 'motherfucker' barrier?" one viewer tweeted. We'll come back to that question.
First, yes, FX is allowed to say motherfucker. It can also show Game of Thrones-levels of violence and nudity, if it wants. That's because the FCC only regulates broadcast networks. According to Entertainment Weekly, the only thing keeping basic cable channels PG-13 is a desire to keep viewers, placate advertisers, and "stay on brand." As for whether or not FX just became a motherfucker pioneer—the Neil Armstrong of basic cable cursing, if you will—the short answer is no. Comedy Central has been known to air the word in stand-up specials, though only after 1am. However, it's entirely possible The People v. OJ Simpson was the first scripted show to use the word in primetime. It's a brave new world, TV viewers.