ABC Pulls Summer Reality Series ‘Neighborhood’

Jun 30, 2005  •  Post A Comment

A little more than a week before its scheduled July 10 premiere, ABC is pulling its six-episode reality series “Welcome to the Neighborhood,” in which three white Christian families on a Texas cul-de-sac get a chance to choose their new neighbors from a group of six culturally diverse families. The selected family then would get a fully furnished house on the street.

The six families were to include a Korean American family, a Hispanic family, an African American family, a family that practices Wicca and a gay couple with a multiracial adopted child.

“Our intention with ‘Welcome to the Neighborhood’ was to show the transformative process that takes place when people are forced to confront preconceived notions of what makes a good neighbor, and we believe the series delivers exactly that,” ABC said in a statement. “However, 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.”

“Neighborhood” had come under fire from a number of groups, including the National Fair Housing Alliance.

“I can’t imagine ABC producing a show where a restaurant owner denies service because of race, religion, color, national origin or sexual orientation,” said Shanna Smith, president and CEO of the organization, in a press release issued before ABC’s decision. “Would Donald Trump fire someone because of their race, color, national origin or religion? Of course not. None of the other TV reality programs cross the line into civil rights violations, but the residents ABC chose to be judges in ‘Welcome to the Neighborhood’ make comments that clearly violate the federal Fair Housing Act and offend not only people of color and the gay community, but Christians and other religious groups as well.”

The media watchdog group Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation said in a Wednesday press release it had “mixed” emotions about “Neighborhood’s” cancellation.

“It’s clear, having seen the entire series, that the producers intended to send a powerful message about the value of diversity and embracing the differences of others,” said GLAAD Entertainment Media Director Damon Romine. “Yet while the spirit of the show was admirable, the episodic nature of the series created serious issues in terms of depicting the neighbors’ journey from intolerance to acceptance.”

The first two episodes of “Neighborhood,” which were touted by ABC at the network’s May upfront presentation, were sent to TV writers weeks ago. The episodes featured two families being eliminated, and discussions by the families currently on the cul-de-sac that expressed their reservations about potential neighbors based on their religion, appearance and sexuality.

“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,” Mr. Romine said. “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 time.”