ABC's "Welcome to the Neighborhood" Is Shown the Door

If it's nasty TV characters you crave, you'll find none better than on a reality show. Backbiting, sniping, and outright hatred seem to rule the day. But now one network says it has miscalculated -- that a program's redeeming show-ending message is not enough to sell the rougher, nastier path to that end.

ABC's higher touted "Welcome to the Neighborhood" won't make it to air this Sunday because of threatened lawsuits by pressure groups. The groups say the show sends a message that it is okay to discriminate against families looking to move into an Austin, Texas community.

Three white suburban families get to pick one of seven non-white, non-traditional families to live in their cul-de-sac - including black, Asian, gay, Hispanic, and pagan-worshiping families.

Ultimately, they learn major lessons about their prejudices. But along the way - during the six-episode series -- they openly reject and discriminate against families who are vying to live in their community. Civil rights lawyers say this activity is openly discriminatory and the National Fair Housing Alliance said they would file a lawsuit if the show proceeded.

ABC, which is riding high from last season's major ratings recovery, as well as a good summer with the reality show "Dancing With the Stars," retreated, saying that perhaps the ending lesson of tolerance should have come sooner.

A civil rights attorney in a New York Times story said he was "in stitches" watching early episodes of the show. If it was "M.A.S.H." or Archie Bunker it would be okay. But not in real life.

Too bad a lot of reality shows don't draw the same kind of controversy. Is it fair some of the best singers don't win on "American Idol"? Maybe the home audience who votes discriminates here or there a little - and thus prevents talent from getting some high-level singing employment.

Does the best executive really get chosen on "The Apprentice"? No, viewers don't vote on this show. But someone could surely sue The Donald for job-hiring discrimination if they felt they weren't judged fairly.

People have filed lawsuits with reality shows - contestants for example have filed lawsuits against "Survivor" because they believe the show did in fact steer other contestants to succeed. But most of these efforts don't go anywhere. Why? Because it's television and not terribly real, and as a reality show contestant you are, in essence, employed as a performer.

Producers say reality shows are 'real' but, as everyone knows, they are heavily scripted to get the best dramatic effect. No doubt, "Welcome to the Neighborhood" seemingly gives the wrong impression, but so do other reality shows for reasons a lot closer to home.

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