In a move to head off a potential controversy, ABC has decided to shelve its reality show “Welcome to the Neighborhood” – less than two weeks before the show was scheduled to premiere. Among many in the TV production community, the network’s move immediately invited comparisons to CBS’ decision to shelve “The Reagans” after conservative groups denounced the controversial miniseries sight unseen. It also demonstrated once again the challenges facing broadcasters in today’s politically charged environment, in which even an off-handed joke about a politician can put a show like “Law & Order” on the defensive. “Neighborhood” – from MGM Television, New Screen Concepts and the Jay and Tony Show Prods. – seeks to discover whether people from different social classes and ethnic groups can be accepted by a white, upper-middle class Texas community. Using a competition format, six families – including a pagan duo, a gay family and a Korean clan – try to win a fully furnished house in Austin by winning over the current residents of the cul-de-sac. While “Neighborhood” exposes the apparent prejudices of the community, it also makes it clear from the start that all involved end up learning “life lessons” by the end of the series, debunking a slew of stereotypes in the process. But before seeing the entire series, several fair housing groups had made it clear they were opposed to the show, with some claiming it may violate federal fair housing laws. A few media outlets had picked up on the controversy, but as late as Tuesday, ABC seemed to be standing fully behind the show. All that changed Wednesday.
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