ABC SHOW STARRING CLEESE OFFENDS PARENTS OF ADOPTED CHILDREN
"ABC show offends parents of adopted children"
by Associated Press (thanks to Analda Anglin for pointing out this news item)
published on CNN.com on 18 June 2002 (3:48 PM EDT)
Wednesday, 19 June 2002

Even though the cancelled sitcom "My Adventures in Television" (formerly "Wednesdays 9:30 (8:30 Central)") has only aired five times, the June 5 episode nevertheless managed to seriously offend parents with adopted Chinese children. Even advertisers have pulled commercials from that timeslot. Well at least this puts the short-lived show, co-starring John Cleese, in the history books after all!

Ed Begley Jr., one of the stars of "My Adventures in Television," apologized to people offended by an episode of the show.

NEW YORK (AP) -- The mother of twin toddlers adopted from China, Nancy Kennon was excited when she heard that an ABC comedy, "My Adventures in Television," was going to feature a Chinese adoption.

What she saw earlier this month appalled her.

Character Lindsay Urich adopts because a therapist says she has a lot of love to give, then gives the baby away after finding motherhood inconvenient. A fictional TV executive begs her to give the baby as a gift to a vain star. Urich tells a friend who holds the baby, "you break her, you bought her." And when one woman muses that the baby looks cute enough to eat, a man says he doesn't eat Chinese babies "because a half hour later I'm hungry and have to eat another."

"I couldn't believe it," said Kennon, from Ossining, New York. "I know it's a big world out there, but it just blows my mind away that a group of people sat and reviewed this and nobody thought it was offensive."

She and other parents have protested to ABC; the network couldn't provide a count of how many. A major advertiser, Kodak, has expressed displeasure and pulled all ads from future episodes. Even one of the actors has apologized.

ABC and the sitcom's creator said those who are offended should realize that the show -- soon to disappear from the network's schedule -- is a satire about callous television executives.

"I would imagine if you were in the process of trying to adopt a Chinese baby that you would watch this and be absolutely horrified," said Peter Tolan, the show's executive producer.

"As always," he said, "get a sense of humor."

"My Adventures in Television" first appeared on ABC's schedule in April as "Wednesday 9:30 (8:30 Central)" and was cancelled after two episodes. ABC is burning off the six episodes it bought now during rerun season; the show's not on the network's fall schedule.

The Chinese baby episode, which aired June 5, drew a relatively small network TV audience of 5.3 million.

Rochelle Talton, a Virginia Beach, Virginia, mother of a 2-year-old adopted from China, wasn't among those viewers. But she moderates Internet chat rooms devoted to adoption that were abuzz with anger.

Talton has protested to ABC's parent, Walt Disney Co. She said she was concerned that older adopted children would have been upset by it.

"I know that no matter what they put on television, it's going to offend somebody," Talton said. "But something as sacred as a family union is not something that should be joked about. It hurt people in a very personal way."

Kodak had not seen the episode before its ad ran. After being told about the content, the camera maker found it offensive, complained to ABC and pulled additional advertising from the show for the duration of its run, said spokesman Gerard Meuchner.

Ed Begley Jr., one of the sitcom's actors, said he received hundreds of e-mails about the episode and responded to each one. He said he was sorry the show offended so many people.

"It was our intention to show how shallow the character Lindsay was," he said, "not to cast the slightest negative image on babies or the heroes and heroines who adopt them."

Tolan said he believed that people who treat babies as fashion accessories were ripe for ridicule. One of the show's jokes was that adoptive parents could get a prettier baby by offering blue jeans as a bribe.

An ABC spokesman said, "it was never the producer's intent for this character to be emulated or for the series to be perceived as anything other than a farce on the absurdity of Hollywood."

It's not a documentary, Tolan said.

"In fact, it's the reverse," he said. "It's a satire, which is why it failed. Take some comfort in the fact that it's not going to be on TV anymore."

 

Copyright 2002 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.