Thursday, January 05, 2006

And now, from the "Controversy, Sweet Controversy" files and Yahoo! News...

Sudiegirl sez: You know, I’m going to watch this show and give a review of my own on this wonderful li’l blog. Who knows, it might actually be good? There’s a first time for everything.
And now, doing what I do best - and BTW, this photo at left is from

Two NBC affiliates throw book at 'Daniel'

By Andrew Wallenstein
Thu Jan 5, 4:06 AM ET

Two NBC affiliates in Arkansas and Indiana are turning the page on upcoming series "The Book of Daniel," which has been drawing criticism for its portrayal of Christianity. (Question – how does one draw criticism? What does it look like? Do you use oil pastels, crayons, colored pencils? Help me out here…)

The series depicts an Episcopalian minister, played by Aidan Quinn, struggling with an addiction to Vicodin, among other problems in his diocese. Jesus is actually a character on the series, depicted in imagined conversations with the minister. (I think I found the controversy. I could be wrong, but sometimes I miss the obvious.)

Last month, the conservative American Family Assn. began calling on affiliates and advertisers to bail out of "Daniel." Many stations have been flooded with e-mails and calls from viewers objecting to the series. (Ah, Dr. Wildmon is rearing his ugly, pious head again. If he’s involved, I will do exactly the opposite of what he says! Nobody’s gonna cancel my favorite version of “Mighty Mouse” by Ralph Bakshi and pull the same trick on another show – not on my watch!)

KARK-TV in Little Rock, Ark., and WTWO-TV in Terre Haute, Ind., announced Wednesday they would pre-empt "Daniel," when it premieres Friday at 9 p.m. Both are owned by Nexstar Broadcasting Group,
KARK-TV declined to air "Daniel" citing "careful consideration" of viewer feedback. Little Rock's WB affiliate, KWBF-TV, will air "Daniel" instead. (Well, let’s just hope people will actually know to watch it on that channel instead or if – whoops – KARK will forget to tell people where to see it.)

However, WTWO general manager Duane Lammers said he is not pre-empting "Daniel" due to its content but rather to protest what he views as the networks' strong-arm approach to affiliates, as well inconsistent federal oversight of indecent content. (So, in reality, it IS about content. Antics with semantics is alive and well in 2006…)

"This has nothing to do with the program and has nothing to do with the AFA," Lammers said. "I think the system is screwed up. I think the network thinks we are going to do whatever they tell us to do. I think the regulatory environment is flawed." (I think he’s more concerned about what he thinks than what the public thinks. I also think that right now, I’m really hungry for some shrimp.)

The network stands by the series, according to Vivi Zigler, executive VP current programming at NBC Entertainment, who cautioned not to judge the series on the basis of promotions for the show. (OK, here’s something else I don’t get. If she says not to judge the show based on the promotions, then why use those controversial promos in the first place? I mean, I’m not a prude, but it makes me think of a lyric from the off-Broadway show “The Fantasticks”…”Plant a carrot, get a carrot, not a Brussels sprout…that’s why I like vegetables; you know what they’re about.” Why can’t you just put together attractive promotions that say what the show is really about instead of focusing on one thing that’s going to piss off a lot of people and screw your ratings, plus wake up Donald Wildmon from his oppressive slumber?)

"People are reacting based on not having seen it," she said. "They're seeing the advertising, not seeing what the core of the show is." (So why not modify the advertising?)

Jack Kenny, executive producer of "Daniel," dismissed claims that the series is anti-Christian. "We are not in any way satirizing Christianity or Jesus," he said. "It's done with love, honoring those things." (But, really…if you have a sense of humor over the dogma and all that, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, right? A little irreverence is sometimes refreshing.)

But Lammers isn't taking exception with "Daniel." Rather, he is using the pre-emption to air multiple grievances with industry practice -- especially network-affiliate relations. (OOH! MULTIPLE GRIEVANCES!!! Gosh, I almost wish I was working there to find out what the multiple grievances are.)

"In the last few years, the networks have responded in a unilateral manner in their treatment of affiliates, whether it's about compensation, exclusivity or other issues," he said. "I am now reaffirming my right to treat them unilaterally." (Wow…I’m diggin’ those words he just used. Lots of letters. I think the next time I want to make a stand about something, I will use those words. Hope you don’t mind, Mr. Lammers…I’ll write and ask for permission first.)

Lammers also decried what he sees as a double standard in the lack of content regulation regarding cable. "I'm saying the regulatory atmosphere is unfair," he said. "If this gives me a chance to talk about it, that's fair." (Well, but you’re an affiliate, not a cable TV station. You’re different in the first place...I guess I don’t exactly understand the argument.)

WTWO is alone so far in its pre-emption of "Daniel," but other affiliates wrestled with the decision. (Curse my creative imagination…I’m just imagining TV execs in WWF costumes dissing the decision’s momma, etc. Dang me!)

"There's been an enormous amount of discussion about the show," said Steve Poulsen, VP marketing at KSL-TV, NBC's affiliate in Salt Lake City. "This one happens to have religious overtones to it and is causing a little stir. We determined on this one to let the viewers determine the success or failure of this show." (Wow…that’s mighty liberal for Utah!)

KSL, which caters to a heavily Mormon viewership, has not been shy about joining the small group of stations that have pre-empted NBC programming in the recent past. Among the NBC series that have been yanked in recent years, include "Coupling," "God, the Devil and Bob," and "Stressed Eric." (I’ve heard of the first two but not the last one. Something tells me I didn’t miss much, but who am I to know?)

Lammers, who also serves as executive VP and chief operating officer of WTWO parent company Nexstar Broadcasting Group, is known for taking aggressive stands on behalf of his company. He pulled multiple Nexstar-owned stations off Cox Communications and Cable One cable systems for most of 2005 in order to negotiate cash for carriage -- an unprecedented arrangement. Both operators settled with Nexstar late last year. (Ah…he’s a feisty one, then! I guess I understand him a little better than in some of the previous paragraphs.)

WTVO, which is the 150th-largest television market in the U.S., will air theatrical "Simon Birch" instead of back-to-back episodes of "Daniel." (And from what I’ve read, that film didn’t exactly light any box-office fires, if you know what I mean.)

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter

Sudiegirl’s final opinion?

I’m glad many stations are giving people the option to watch and decide if they like it. I’m going to be one of them, and hopefully I can put a review in the ol’ BLOG this weekend. I don’t think I’ll let Millie do it, though…she tends to just get angry and want to pee in people’s shoes and we don’t want that.


PPS: the rest of the photos are from www. newsday .com, and doesn't ol' Aidan look hot? I'm so glad I'm Episcopalian. Sigh...