Based on the previews ABC already had shown for Welcome to the Neighborhood, it was going to be a touchy-feely and maybe even pleasant version of a marathon course in cultural diversity. Sure, the premise had a creepy whiff of exploitation, which set people of various cultural backgrounds in competition for a house in a white suburb near Austin, Texas. Still, it held out the promise of crumbling stereotypes and group hugs and, well, at least a few hours of transcending the culture wars that even some of us culture-war-vultures sometimes find wearying. Reuters, among others, reports today that ABC -- which joined the two other major networks in turning away the United Church of Christ's famous velvet-rope church ad -- has backed away from Welcome to the Neighborhood:
"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," Walt Disney Co.-owned ABC said in a statement carried by Daily Variety and the Hollywood Reporter.
"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."
Daily Variety said ABC could eventually air a condensed version so that the feel-good ending comes sooner.
Groups ranging from the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) and the National Fair Housing Alliance to the conservative Family Research Council had raised concerns about the show, the papers said.
GLAAD was concerned that the gay couple might get grilled by the neighbors, while the Family Research Council was worried that the conservative neighbors might be ridiculed for their Christian beliefs.
GLAAD expressed its mixed feelings about the show's shelving in this statement. The Associated Press also reported that the Family Research Council expressed concerns about the show. As of early Thursday afternoon, FRC had not posted a response to ABC's announcement.
Reuters being what it is, its report compared Welcome to the Neighborhood's plight with that of The Reagans, the soap-opera treatment of President Reagan's career and family life that CBS bumped over to its Showtime cable channel.
Somebody, please, send out a distress signal to the Queer Eye for the Straight Guy crew. It sounds like at least a few groups need remedial lessons in humor, irony, dramatic tension and storytelling.