TV Episodes Tweaked for Sensitivity

Nearly every show across the television dial — from new series about the CIA to old episodes of The Simpsons — is removing references to the World Trade Center, terrorist attacks, or jokes about airline travel that could possibly offend

"I think it changes everything for everybody," John Wells, executive producer of The West Wing, told Variety. "It would be unrealistic to think that it won't change what we have to say in narrative dramatic TV shows."

Last week, CBS postponed the pilot of its CIA drama The Agency, which eerily revolved around a terror attack orchestrated by Osama bin Laden. The network has decided to delay another early episode of the show because of a plot involving a potential anthrax attack on Washington, D.C. The Agency will now premiere Thursday with an episode about a plot to assassinate Cuban leader Fidel Castro, Variety reports. Producer Shaun Cassidy (yes, that Shaun Cassidy of The Hardy Boys fame) says, "Everybody is trying to take the pulse of the world one day at a time," about assessing the appropriateness of upcoming storylines. "The CIA has a lot of internal stories that can be told that don't deal with external threats," he said of the show's hopes to not mirror real-life events too closely. The anthrax-themed episode is expected to air later in the season. Fox has decided to edit out a key scene from the pilot of its new drama 24, in which a terrorist bomb causes an airplane to explode in midair. The series stars Kiefer Sutherland as a CIA agent trying to prevent a presidential assassination. NBC's Friends has reworked its third episode of the season, which was originally set in an airport in which wisecracking Chandler (Matthew Perry) makes a joke about a sign that reads "it is illegal to joke about bombs on airplanes." Executive producer David Crane told Entertainment Tonight, "Two weeks ago, that would have been ridiculous. It's not ridiculous now." CBS has changed a line in tonight's premiere of Ellen DeGeneres' comeback series, The Ellen Show, referring to a character losing her job in the dot-com collapse. "I hope you didn't get caught in the building," she said in a line that now won't be broadcast. An upcoming terrorist-themed script of NBC's crime drama UC: Undercover has been shelved. Writer Shane Salerno is rapidly working to pen a new episode, according to Variety. Twentieth Century Fox Television has pulled from syndication a classic episode of The Simpsons in which the cartoon family visits the Big Apple — and Homer visits the twin towers of the World Trade Center. Showtime has indefinitely pushed back the premiere of The Believer, inspired by the true story of a self-hating Jew who became an anti-Semitic skinhead. The already controversial film won awards at Sundance, but had trouble finding theatrical distribution. The current climate may force Fireworks Pictures to scrap plans to release the film in theaters in 2002.

Reuters/Variety contributed to this story.

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