ABC being urged to change title for sit-com it is developing

The Parents Television Council is urging ABC to drop plans to use profanity in the title of a television comedy series featuring a struggling church and its new pastor.

"Holy (expletive)," the title of the series currently in development, is not only offensive and inappropriate, but assumes that advertisers want to link their products to "excrement," PTC President Tim Winter told Baptist Press.

"You scratch your head and wonder what the folks at the programming department in these networks are thinking, but they certainly have no sense of what the American marketplace is looking for," Winter said. "When are they going to get it?"

The show is being developed just as a PTC study found that ABC prime time shows had the most uses of profanity and sexualized language voiced by children during the study period of February-May 2016, when compared to CBS, NBC and Fox.

Winter referenced an earlier ABC series with the same word in its title, "[Expletive] My Dad Says,"—promoted as "$#*! My Dad Says"—which was canceled in the middle of the 2010-2011 broadcast season after 18 episodes.

"What we said at the time was, 'How many corporate sponsors are going to want to align their corporate brand image with excrement?' That's what they're doing, if they're going to align their media dollars with a show, they're bringing their brand alongside that word, and it's inseparable," Winter said. "All we had to do was remind them of that. The advertisers pulled out, one at a time and realized, 'Well we don't associate with that,' and the show was canceled."

The PTC, in frequent contact with ABC executives, is urging the company to immediately reconsider the profanity in the title of the show and the show's content, which they say portrays the pastorate poorly.

"When I look back over the years, especially recent years, of Hollywood's treatment of people of faith broadly, but specifically people of the cloth, it has not been favorable. It is almost entirely unfavorable," Winter told BP. "If they move forward and try to put a show like this on the air, then we will absolutely do everything we can to make sure that number one, the audiences are aware of it and they stay away, and number two, more importantly to the network, the advertisers, the one who pay the networks for the time on those shows … our hope is that the advertisers will reconsider any association with the show."

Networks have begun as early as 2009 developing shows with profanity in the titles, rolling out several such titles that have failed, according to "Deadline Hollywood" entertainment news.

"These shows routinely fail in terms of popularity and the ratings," Winter said.

In the PTC study on the use of foul and suggestive language by children, results showed ABC primetime shows included 81 instances of profanity and 42 instances of sexual dialogue in the three-month study period.

"It's bad enough that children are increasingly exposed to vulgar dialogue on television at all hours of the day. It's even worse that they're seeing the vulgarity coming directly from the lips of other children," Winter said in a PTC press release. "This troubling new trend should concern every family, given the inarguable evidence that children are influenced by what they see on TV."

Fox, which features a Sunday-night block of animated cartoons, ranked second to ABC in children using profanity and obscene innuendo, the PTC study found.

"Historically such instances of child-delivered vulgarity were few and far between," Winter said. "The fact that there is a rapid increase is truly troubling for parents and families."

The PTC is also working to improve the television ratings system, which Winter said does not adequately alert parents to offensive content.

Regarding the use of profanity in the ABC series in development, Winter said, "We'll see what their next move is."

Diana Chandler is Baptist Press' general assignment writer/editor.

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