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“Our TV show”: Legitimacy, Public Relations and J. Edgar Hoover’s “The F.B.I.” on ABC-TV
Unformatted Document Text:  Cecil  —  “Our  TV  show”    —    14   Whitehead’s authorized FBI history as a reference, consistently sought to add violence and other off-brand elements to the scripts. 54 Early script reviews in season one ran two pages or less, provided a synopsis of the story and dictated only a few minor changes per episode. For example, the script for “A Slow March Up a Steep Hill,” included a scene where Erskine surprised another agent and his fiancé who were embracing in the office. “It is not felt proper that the Inspector should walk into Rhodes’ office or any other Bureau office and find this romance taking place,” Agent Milton A. Jones recommended. The Bureau also asked that a scene where an Assistant Director of the FBI apologized to Erskine. “It is not felt an apology is necessary and this statement should be deleted.” 55 As time passed, though, and violent content became more of an issue, the FBI began a more thorough review of the scripts. Ten episodes into the first season, Hoover had seen enough violence. “Let me know how many have been killed in the first ten scripts,” Hoover wrote on a memorandum. 56 Milton A. Jones, who was the primary script editor in the Crime Records Division, reported back that the first ten episodes included 10 killings, five by special agents and five by subjects. Jones noted that there were numerous other instances of “woundings” where agents, criminals or citizens were shot or otherwise injured. 57 By the beginning of season two in 1966, Tolson, too, had seen enough. “There are entirely too many killings in our TV scripts,” Tolson wrote on a memorandum. “Please see that this is corrected.” Hoover added his own note: “I certainly agree.” 58 The second season began an escalation in the battle over violent content in the series. FBI officials began to reject most violent scenes, labeling excessive killings as, “violence for violence sake.” 59 In addition to limiting violence, the FBI objected other portrayals that could indicate a lack of responsibility and utility on the part of the Bureau. FBI reviewers rejected scripts that portrayed agents drinking alcohol,

Authors: Cecil, Matthew.
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background image
Cecil  —  “Our  TV  show”    —    14  
Whitehead’s authorized FBI history as a reference, consistently sought to add violence and other 
off-brand elements to the scripts.
54
 
Early script reviews in season one ran two pages or less, provided a synopsis of the story 
and dictated only a few minor changes per episode. For example, the script for “A Slow March 
Up a Steep Hill,” included a scene where Erskine surprised another agent and his fiancé who 
were embracing in the office. “It is not felt proper that the Inspector should walk into Rhodes’ 
office or any other Bureau office and find this romance taking place,” Agent Milton A. Jones 
recommended. The Bureau also asked that a scene where an Assistant Director of the FBI 
apologized to Erskine. “It is not felt an apology is necessary and this statement should be 
deleted.”
55
 
As time passed, though, and violent content became more of an issue, the FBI began a 
more thorough review of the scripts. Ten episodes into the first season, Hoover had seen enough 
violence. “Let me know how many have been killed in the first ten scripts,” Hoover wrote on a 
memorandum.
56
 Milton A. Jones, who was the primary script editor in the Crime Records 
Division, reported back that the first ten episodes included 10 killings, five by special agents and 
five by subjects. Jones noted that there were numerous other instances of “woundings” where 
agents, criminals or citizens were shot or otherwise injured.
57
  
By the beginning of season two in 1966, Tolson, too, had seen enough. “There are entirely 
too many killings in our TV scripts,” Tolson wrote on a memorandum. “Please see that this is 
corrected.” Hoover added his own note: “I certainly agree.”
58
 The second season began an 
escalation in the battle over violent content in the series. FBI officials began to reject most violent 
scenes, labeling excessive killings as, “violence for violence sake.”
59
 In addition to limiting 
violence, the FBI objected other portrayals that could indicate a lack of responsibility and utility 
on the part of the Bureau. FBI reviewers rejected scripts that portrayed agents drinking alcohol, 


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