The ill-fated ABC series Welcome to the Neighborhood is back in the news again. If you’ll remember, the realtiy show featured a cul-de-sac of conservative Christian families in Austin, Texas who were to choose a family to live on their street from among a pool of “alternative” contestants — African-American, Hispanic, Korean, Wiccan, tattooed, gay, and a strip-tease artist.
While the show was cancelled because it was said to be too controversial, the real-life drama that played out between the gay family that won the show and a Christian family on the cul-de-sac revealed how bigoted attitudes can be turned around by lifting the veil of ignorance. The show’s real life happy ending revealed an amazing turn of events, as the cul-de-sac’s most virulently homophobic resident tossed his bigotry aside and became close friends with the gay couple, made amends with his gay son, and spoke at a vigil against an anti-gay amendment that would ban gay marriage.
Now, one of the producers of Neighborhood has come out and said that ABC cancelled the show because of fears that Christian objection to its content could hurt its plans to promote Disney’s holiday film The Chronicles of Narnia.
He said that the protests might have been most significant as a diversion that allowed the Walt Disney Company, ABC’s owner, to pre-empt a show that could have interfered with a much bigger enterprise: the courting of evangelical Christian audiences for “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.” Disney hoped that the film, widely viewed as a parable of the Resurrection, would be the first in a profitable movie franchise.
An ABC spokesman responded to the charges: “That’s so ludicrous, it doesn’t even merit a response.” But an official with the Southern Baptist Convention doesn’t think its too ludicrous. Says Richard Land: “I would have considered it a retrograde step. Aside from any moral considerations, it would have been a pretty stupid marketing move.”
ABC has been inconsistent in its responses as to why the show has never aired according to Hank Cohen, a former president of MGM Television Entertainment.
So why won’t ABC air a show whose central theme is tolerance and enlightenment?
“The neighbors’ attitudes toward homosexuality constitute the dominant theme” of the show, says the NYT, whose writer viewed the entire series:
That the tide may be shifting is telegraphed in an all-male scene in a hot tub, of all places, when one neighbor, John Bellamy, observes that Mr. Stewart appears to be softening his views toward gays. “I love you for that,” Mr. Bellamy says, before cautioning, “Not in a weird kind of hot-tub love, with no chicks in the hot tub.”
Why is it not surprising that the wingnuts may not want America to see any of this?