Stations preempt new Peacock drama

NBC affiliates in Arkansas and Indiana have decided to pull “The Book of Daniel” off the air Friday night, becoming the first two stations to preempt the new drama.

“The Book of Daniel” stars Aidan Quinn as an Episcopalian minister who struggles with an addiction to painkillers and a somewhat dysfunctional family. He’s also seen occasionally speaking to a Jesus character whom only he sees. Series bows with a two-hour premiere Friday at 9 p.m.

The preemptions come as the Tupelo, Miss.-based American Family Assn. continues to urge stations and advertisers to boycott the show, calling it “anti-Christian bigotry.”

Both stations — KARK-TV, Little Rock, Ark., and WTWO-TV, Terre Haute, Ind., are owned by Irving, Texas-based broadcaster Nexstar.

KARK announced Wednesday that it wouldn’t air the show “after careful consideration, watching the program and, most importantly, listening to our viewers and engaging them in dialogue.”

On its Web site, KARK said the station heard from many viewers “who expressed their heartfelt opinions on both sides of the issue.”

Instead, WB affil KWBF-TV, owned by Equity Broadcasting, has agreed to pick up the show and air it in its Friday slot (preempting a “Beauty and the Geek” repeat).

“While we respect (KARK’s) position not to air this program, we are excited to provide an outlet for viewers here in central Arkansas,” the station said.

Meanwhile, WTWO-TV also said it wouldn’t air the show “due to emails and calls from viewers.”

“Our relationship with NBC always provided for the right to reject programming,” WTWO general manager Duane Lammers said in a statement. “I am reaffirming that right to let them know I will not allow them to make unilateral decisions affecting our viewers.”

Lammers, who also is chief operating officer of Nexstar, used the preemption to criticize cable.

“I want to draw attention to the worst offenders of indecency on television — the cable industry, which faces no decency regulations, nor a license renewal,” he said.

In a statement, NBC stressed that “The Book of Daniel” was a fictional drama “about an Episcopalian priest’s family and the contemporary issues with which they must grapple. We’re confident that once audiences view this quality drama themselves, they’ll appreciate this thought-provoking examination of one American family.”

The preemptions are reminiscent of a move by several NBC affils in 2000 to dump the animated laffer “God, the Devil and Bob.” In the end, 22 stations opted not to air “God,” which also came under fire from the AFA.

Meanwhile, the AFA also took issue with the positive portrayal in “The Book of Daniel” of the minister’s gay son. That has raised the ire of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.

“It doesn’t surprise me that the American Family Assn. would be afraid of this series — it shows a family that’s both deeply religious and loving and accepting of their gay son,” said GLAAD’s entertainment director, Damon Romine. “Unless local affiliates want to send a message that they’re willing to surrender their programming decisions to anti-gay religious extremists, they shouldn’t be caving to these threats, either.”

NBC Universal TV and Sony Pictures TV are behind “The Book of Daniel,” which comes from exec producers Jack Kenny and Flody Suarez.

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