Booking On TV's History Of Pre-emption

Everyone is human, with nagging human problems--even drink-swilling, pill-popping pastors and clerics.

That's the message of "The Book of Daniel," NBC's controversial new TV series. Not all people see it that way. The American Family Association believes the show is not about the foibles of humanity but rather about anti-Christian bigotry.

AFA's tough and organized e-mail campaign was too much for two Midwest NBC affiliates, which will pre-empt the show. Even then, the executive in charge of both of those stations doesn't want to cede to this tactic--and is now complaining not about the content of the show, but the growing strong-arm tactics of networks towards their affiliates instead.

Of course, this isn't the first time a network affiliate has pulled a program because of what it thought was inappropriate content.



Sixty-six ABC affiliates didn't run "Saving Private Ryan" either when it came on the small screen. Too much World War II violence there--especially in the first 15 minutes of the movie, which sealed its fate. NBC's own KSL-TV in Salt Lake City, home of the Mormon Church, has pre-empted many shows. In 2000, about 22 NBC affiliates sat on the sidelines for a comedy on religion, "God, the Devil, & Bob."

Most writers, of course, are not looking for bigotry in their writing--just good, interesting writing. And if that writing isn't compelling enough, the AFA won't have to worry at all--the show will go away of its own boring accord. Perhaps AFA viewers could change the channel to 867, or something like that. It's not like there are only three networks to watch these days.

Writers of "Book of Daniel" are playing to a small niche--not the majority. TV regularly offers the ups and down on any subject. Didn't CBS let that good religious feeling of "Joan of Arcadia" play for several years--though it grabbed some of the oldest demographics for a TV show?

NBC has had its share of right-sided religious messaging. Last spring, it put on "Revelations." More recently, it tried the faith-based reality show "Three Wishes." NBC is facing an uphill battle in prime-time ratings, and as my friend Brian Lowry of Daily Variety says, " It's hard to blame the Peacock net for seeking salvation through a higher power."

I say, let he who hasn't sinned--pre-empt.

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