Why ‘The Walking Dead’ Doesn’t Use the F-Word

Don’t blame the FCC for Negan’s surprisingly clean language on “The Walking Dead”

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Gene Page/AMC

There are many things that can be aired on “The Walking Dead.” These included gunfights, disembowelment, graphic depiction of children being killed by zombies, and major characters getting beaten to death by barbed-wire baseball bats. But it seems that the F-word is off-limits.

After the season 7 premiere, one of the major talking points both online and on Chris Hardwick’s “Talking Dead” talk show is how the show’s biggest villain yet, Negan, seemed to shy away from profanity. In Robert Kirkman‘s comic book series, Negan cusses more than Mr. Krabs after he’s stubbed his toe. But on Sunday’s episode, his dialogue was far cleaner than his bloody murders.

This isn’t due to FCC censorship. After all, AMC is a basic cable network and not subject to the regulations that broadcast networks have to face. Instead, the restrictions on profanity seem to come from AMC itself, as showrunners for other programs on the network have mentioned having restrictions on the F-word.

During the final season of “Breaking Bad” in 2013, show creator Vince Gilligan mentioned in an interview with L.A. public radio station KCRW that AMC only allowed them to use the F-word once in each season. They decided to use it in Hank Schrader’s final scene, as he told the man who was about to shoot him dead to “go f— yourself.” Other famous usages of the word in the series included Walter’s furious resignation from the car wash in the show’s first episode, and Skyler’s revelation to Walter in season 3 that she committed adultery to get back at him for domineering over her and continuing to cook meth despite her demands that he stop.

Earlier this year, AMC also picked up Seth Rogen‘s TV adaptation of “Preacher,” a comic book series with even more profanity than “The Walking Dead.” In an interview with Collider, Rogen praised AMC for giving him near-complete freedom to do what he wants with the series, but noted the one rule he had to follow when writing scripts.

“There’s definitely been some conversations here and there, but ultimately they’ve let us do exactly what we wanted, which has been incredible,” he said. “Literally, you can’t say the F word, but other than that, we’ve pretty much been given complete free range.”

Up to this point, “Walking Dead” has never dropped the F bomb, but it might finally take the opportunity to do so with Negan if they follow the “Breaking Bad” route and use the word during a dramatic moment later in the season.

Still, viewers should expect more squeaky-clean villainous banter from the man with the bloody Louisville Slugger in the near future, as executive producer Scott Gimple has said that there’s “no way he could drop that amount of F-bombs” even on basic cable. If only this show were on HBO.