ABC cans show for breaking housing laws
Welcome to the neighborhood — now get out. Less than two weeks before its July 10 debut, after advocacy group the National Fair Housing Alliance claimed it violated fair-housing laws, ABC has shelved its summer reality series Welcome to the Neighborhood. The six-episode show follows seven families — including a gay couple and a pagan clan — as they vie for a furnished home in a white, conservative Texas neighborhood.
Following last year’s Janet Jackson Nipplegate debacle at the Super Bowl, ABC’s move — like CBS’ 2003 dumping of the TV biopic The Reagans after Republican protests — is striking some as an overreaction to negative press and a potential lawsuit. (The NFHA has mentioned the possibility of filing a suit under the Fair Housing Act because the show allows factors like sexual orientation and skin color to be considered in awarding a house.) ”Where’s the damage in one more bad TV show?” says UCLA film professor/pop-culture analyst Richard Walter. ”It’s clever and creative to contemplate a way to engage public consciousness regarding race, ethnicity, and culture.”
Perhaps, but NFHA president Shanna Smith took issue with how Neighborhood‘s families chose who moves next door: Would-be neighbors perform a series of tasks to help decide who stays and who goes. But there was clearly more to the decision-making: In one objectionable bit, a white resident makes an off-color remark about the number of kids in the Mexican-American Gonzalez family. If the show aired, argues Smith, ”There would be millions of Americans watching who would believe it’s okay to turn a family away because of their race or their religion.”
ABC won’t comment, but the show may never air — to the dismay of some participants. ”We knew that it would be difficult to watch,” John and Steve Wright, Neighborhood‘s gay couple, said in a statement. ”But if one person’s attitudes were changed or one gay kid in Nebraska realized that he wasn’t alone, this show would have done its job.”