making a reality show that lets
white Christian Republicans choose their new neighbors from a group of
minorities, it's best to make sure those white Christian Republicans speak
with a bit less candor than those ABC picked for a reality show set to
debut in early July.
Yesterday, ABC yanked its upcoming “Welcome
to the Neighborhood” after a flood of protests from civil rights and
fair housing groups.
The groups worried that the show, which ABC touted as breaking down racial
and social boundaries, would instead serve to reinforce them.
There was also a secondary issue of whether the show
violated fair housing laws.
The concept was to allow three families living
near Austin, Texas, to choose a new neighbor from seven competing
families, including a white gay couple with a black child, a Korean family
and a Hispanic family.
The civil rights groups objected to allegedly racist comments
made by the Austin families in choosing which competitors to boot.
The National Fair Housing Alliance, a network of nonprofit
housing agencies, contends that the show violated laws prohibiting
discrimination along religious or racial lines in real estate.
In a statement, ABC acknowledges that it may have pushed
"The fact that true change
only happens over time made the episodic nature of this series challenging,
and given the sensitivity of the subject matter in early episodes we have
decided not to air the series at this time."
The six-episode show was set to debut July 10 at 9 p.m.,
with a special original episode of “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” at
8 to give it a big lead-in.
The Austin families voted off one family each week before
awarding the 3,300 square-foot house to the family it thought would fit
into the neighborhood best.
Problem was, in the first two episodes their reasoning
sounded pretty discriminatory. The gay couple was the biggest target, but
the families also busted on the Koreans and another white family that
happened to practice Wicca.
The NFHA, which found out about the show last week and was
preparing to file for a temporary restraining order, says the show reinforced
“These families were clearly making comments and
judgments about the number of kids in the Latino household,” Shanna
Smith, NFHA’s president and CEO, told Media Life this morning.
wasn't like an Archie Bunker show here where you get a chance to balance
out issues. These people were engaging in blatant discrimination in
Charges of bigotry in reality TV are hardly new, dating
back to the earliest years of MTV's “The Real World.” But the protests and the legal questions were apparently more than ABC
was willing to deal with.
The network insisted from the start that by the final
episode lessons in tolerance and acceptance had been learned. But
considering the tune-out rate for reality TV these days, ABC may have
worried that viewers would base their opinions of the show on just one
"In terms of structure, if viewers only
watched the first episode or two, they could come away with a message that
prejudice and discrimination are not that big a deal -- which is the exact
opposite of what the producers intended," Gay &
Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD)
Entertainment Media director Damon Romine said in a statement.
"Regardless of how things turn out at the end of the last show, it's
dangerous to let intolerance and bigotry go unchallenged for weeks at a
ABC did not rule out airing "Neighborhood" in the
future, or perhaps airing it as a much shorter special rather than a
series. That's not likely to happen until things have cooled off,