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It's baaack: ABC may air 'Welcome to the Neighborhood'

The first post about ABC’s boneheaded idea for a reality show hit the Blend in June. Here’s what I said then:

How’s this for a premise — feature three fundy Christian families and let them figure out which minority family they find the least repellent to live next to. Film them as they freely exhibit all their bigotry out into the open for Nielsen ratings. Gotcha yet? Must-see-TV for ya! What a barrel of laughs!

The families that the fundy neighbors get to pick from are:

* African-American
* Caucasian
* Korean
* Latino
* gay
* Wiccans

You can imagine the firestorm that caused, and ABC yanked the show. The network is thinking about airing it now, and the reason won’t surprise you — Fox, which is launching its own reality TV channel, needs to fill hours of programming. If ABC doesn’t air it, Fox was willing to buy and air it, so now ABC is contemplating putting the show on the air itself. It’s all about the Benjamins, folks.

While the show’s goals might have been admirable, based on the initial promotional clips that ABC had made available, the neighbors didn’t initially interact well with the seven participating families, resulting in some advocacy groups expressing concern that the neighbors’ slow enlightenment might give viewers of the show’s early episodes the idea that the show was “encouraging prejudice.” Additionally, fair housing groups had also contended that the show’s format violated anti-discrimination housing laws, a contention that ABC’s lawyers disputed.

After hearing about the various concerns, ABC announced in late June that it had decided to pull the show from its summer schedule and was exploring the possibility of airing a condensed version of the show in which the “feel good” ending airs sooner after the “edgier” early episodes.

[Makes you curious about what they deem “edgy” — religious proselytizing, rocks through the windows, racial epithets?]

While ABC has apparently still been continuing to decide what to do with the series, the recently launched Fox Reality Channel (no doubt hoping to cash in on the free publicity generated by the controversial series) decided to approach the network about the possibility of airing the series on its own cable network should ABC opt against airing the series — an idea that ABC president Steve McPherson quickly shot down during one of last week’s Television Critics Tour sessions with reporters.

“If I don’t think something should be aired, why would I sell it to somebody else?” Daily Variety reported McPherson as stating to reporters. “For financial gain or just to get it out there? That doesn’t make any (sense). If you don’t think something is responsible to be broadcast, why would you encourage it to be broadcast elsewhere?”

Meanwhile, publicity craving Fox Reality executives were more than willing to continue to talk about what network head David Lyle described to the New York Daily News as its “kind offer.” “I understand ABC’s dilemma — that the show might offend people initially before it plays out,” Lyle also told Daily Variety. “But our audience of passionate reality TV watchers expects things to be more confrontational, so I think it would work for us.”

I guess Fox is targeting the Springer/Freepi demographic?

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding