Jul 1, 2005

ABC Pulls "Neighborhood" Show [LINK]

ABC pulled plans to air a new reality show, "Welcome to the Neighborhood." In the show, several families compete to win a large house near Austin, Texas. To win the house, they must meet the approval of their would-be neighbors, all of whom are white Bush voters. The show's focus was how they would deal with their latent prejudice when confronted with a set of people carefully chosen by the show's producers for the most exquisite provocation — not only the requisite black, Latino and Asian families, but two gay men with an adopted black baby, a Republican couple covered in tattoos, a seemingly normal family whose mother secretly works as a stripper, and a pair of Wiccans.

ABC canceled plans to air the show not because it represented a perverse new cultural nadir, but because of fears it violated the federal Fair Housing Act.

Update 7/13: Brent Bozell notes that members of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) prescreened episodes of the show. Their displeasure with depictions of anti-gay prejudice — even if the participants eventually grow to accept the potential gay neighbors — apparently contributed to the show's cancellation. This arguably represents a free-speech "chilling effect" that would be readily denounced in other contexts. Christian conservatives also noted their displeasure over the depiction of the neighbors as bigots, but unlike GLAAD, their input was not solicited.

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