Scandal! Ten Examples of Religious Groups Freaking Out Over TV Shows

Earlier this week, Matt wrote about how the Mormon-owned KSL-TV NBC affiliate in Salt Lake City will refuse to air “Playboy Club” when it premieres in the fall. It’s either because they really hated Amber Heard in Drive Angry or, more likely, they believe they’re too pure to be associated with the Playboy brand.

But this isn’t the first time a religious group has gotten righteous and holier-than-thou over a TV show, and it certainly won’t be the last. Click through for ten other examples of TV versus religion. WHO’S YOUR MESSIAH NOW?

1. “Naked News”

I haven’t thought about “Naked News” since roughly 2005, when I discovered the Internet had free porn. But it’s still around (on TV now) causing trouble for some, and not just for those who are looking for an in-depth jouranlistic report on what happened in New Zealand’s bush rather than…never mind. According to South African website Channel 24, “Family Policy Institute said in a statement that certain Church [organizations] have committed to encourage church alliances and congregations in South Africa to boycott until it cancels the controversial “Naked News” [program] and all other pornographic content from its broadcasting schedule.” Supposedly, millions of people joined the boycott, but “Naked News,” which is produced in Canada, continues to air and has been so popular that a South African version is in discussion.

2. “Willing Willie”

A Filipino game show called “Willing Willie” sounds so honest and respectable, certainly not conjuring images of little children named Willie getting sodomized. While there was no pedophilia involved, there was a crying six-year-old boy named Jan-Jan being forced to do a sexy “macho dance” to Dr. Dre’s “The Next Episode” in front of a laughing audience and tens of thousands of viewers. The show’s host, Willie Revillame, egged him on, saying, “He’s even crying. That’s how hard life is. Of course he will dance like a macho dancer despite his age for his beloved family.”

When the clip went viral, the sh*t hit the proverbial fan and the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines condemned “Willing Willie.” According to Father Edwin Gariguez, executive secretary of the National Secretariat for Social Action, Justice, and Peace (the church’s “social development arm”), “The management and host of the show brought shame not only to (the boy) and his parents but to media practitioners in general.” In April, “Willing Willie” went on hiatus due to an exodus of advertisers — before returning in May with a new name, “Wil Time Bigtime.”

3. “NYPD Blue”

In 1993, the American Family Association, led by Reverend Donald Wildmon (whose last name is false advertising), targeted Steven Bochco’s “NYPD Blue” as a potential threat to the American way. Meaning he was scared of Dennis Franz’s ass and still bitter that “Cop Rock” had been canceled after only one season. Unlike the rest of the country, who just decided to look away, Wildmon did something about it: he took out full-page ads in newspapers, called the show soft-core porn, convinced a fourth of ABC’s affiliates to not air the premiere, and predicted the show would be gone in two months. The pilot still managed boffo ratings (probably because of the controversy), affiliates quickly caved in, knowing that they stood to lose millions by not airing the show, and “NYPD Blue” ran for 261 episodes. Twelve years later, Wildmon’s son, Tim, admitted that the eight week prediction was “wrong” and that “NYPD Blue” “started the trend toward more sex, violence, and profanity on television, and has led to the downfall of television overall,” which explains “Raising the Bar.”

4. “Coupling”

“Playboy Club” isn’t the first time the fine folks at KSL have refused to air a TV show. Back in 2003, NBC and Jeff Zucker thought it wise to greenlight an American version of Steven Moffat’s “Coupling” (starring Penny from “Lost”!), based on the sexy BBC original. But because of the show’s sexiness, KSL, along with WNDU in South Bend, Indiana, declined to broadcast the series, calling it “unsuitable.” Zucker said of the controversy, “I think that if there’s outrage over “Coupling,” so be it. That is good for us.” The show was canceled after four episodes and Zucker was eventually fired, with NBC dipping from first in the ratings to last.

5. “The Book of Daniel”

Aidan Quinn playing a modern-day reverend who has long, philosophical conversations about life and stuff with Jesus, played by Garret Dillahunt (“Raising Hope”), might sound interesting to…actually, that doesn’t sound interesting to anyone. Not even the pedophile from Happiness could make things less boring. That’s one of the reasons why “The Book of Daniel” was canceled after only four episodes on NBC. The other: advertisers wanted nothing to do with it. Even before “Daniel” aired, NBC was struggling to find businesses willing to associate themselves with “Daniel,” and it certainly didn’t help when five NBC affiliates refused to air the pilot and the American Family Association called the show “anti-Christian bigotry.”

6. “Big Love”

Even before “Big Love” premiered on HBO in 2006, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was anxious about the idea of a show about their religion, even though HBO said the series wouldn’t be about Mormonism, per se. Three years later, when word got out that “Big Love” was going to do an episode showing an endowment ceremony, a ritual so sacred that a mere still of a fully-clothed Barb in the temple where the ceremony’s held included a NSFW warning on Mormon Mentality, LDS issued a statement. The post, entitled “The Publicity Dilemma,” reads:

“Last week some Church members began e-mail chains calling for cancellations of subscriptions to AOL, which, like HBO, is owned by Time Warner. Certainly such a boycott by hundreds of thousands of computer-savvy Latter-day Saints could have an economic impact on the company. Individual Latter-day Saints have the right to take such actions if they choose. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as an institution does not call for boycotts. Such a step would simply generate the kind of controversy that the media loves and in the end would increase audiences for the series.”

In other words: ignore the problem until it goes away, while conducting yourself with “dignity and thoughtfulness,” and continue to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. Mormons are almost likable, if it weren’t for their anti-gay ways and cult-like behavior. It’s easy to hate the radical Mormon Mentality, though, which believes HBO aired the episode because “this is, in all likelihood, [producer] Tom Hanks’ revenge on the church for promoting Proposition 8.” Ah, much better.

7. “Three’s Company”

Boycotts were simpler back in the 1970s. Now, religious organizations are getting up in arms over “South Park” depicting the Virgin Mary bleeding “out her ass.” But back then, our buddy Donald Wildmon and the rest of the American Family Association (then called the National Federation for Decency) just wanted “Three’s Company” to go away because it was a lighthearted farce about an unmarried man living with two unattached women. Just look at that wacky smut above. In 1978, NFD politely asked Sears if they’d stop giving their ad money to the show, and Sears agreed. The star of the show, John Ritter, begged America to purchase twice the amount of products from businesses that stuck with “Three’s Company,” and the show ran for eight seasons, only finishing out of the top-ten in its final year. Other memorable shows that Wildmon boycotted: “Roseanne,” “Major Dad,” “Seinfeld,” and “The Wonder Years.”

8. “Californication”

Looking for a good time? Try reading Andrew Bolt’s 2007 article in the Herald Sun, which proclaimed that “Peter Falloon” (he actually means Nick Falloon, but what’s in a name?) and Grant Blackley, two men who helped run Network Ten in the 2000s, were both pornographers. Why? Because they allowed “Californication” to be aired in Australia. Bolt writes, “It is only to give you a precise picture that I note Falloon and Blackley’s sole role with ‘Californication’ was to have it run on their station, hoping thereby to rake in a sack of damp cash. They just pimped it, you might say.”

(Bolt takes offense to the show’s first scene, where David Duchovny’s Hank Moody is receiving oral sex from a nun in a church, not because a religious figure is going down on Fox Mulder, but because if “Californication” really wanted to be risqué, “it would have [Hank] getting [oral sex] from a devout Muslim woman in a mosque.” Because, obviously, “the first episode mocks Christianity in a way Islam, say, is always spared.”)

Fellow koala-stuck-up-their-ass Australians grew equally upset, including the Australian Christian Lobby’s managing director Jim Wallace, who asked that no business give their advertising dollars to the network, and Father John Fongemie of the Catholic Church, who led a candlelight vigil outside of the network’s office in Sydney when the show premiered. All of 30 people came to protest with him. I could go down to the street right now and start yelling, “DOWN WITH MARMALADE” and get twice that amount in 20 minutes. New Zealand’s Catholic community, led by the church’s national director of communications Lyndsay Freer, went even further, calling the show “seriously sick and actually evil.” And she probably hasn’t even seen its fourth season.

9. “Degrassi: The Next Generation”

Christian group Florida Family Association asked advertisers to boycott TeenNick’s “Degrassi: The Next Generation” because the show features—get ready to be shocked here—a transgender character. According to FFA’s chairman David Caton, “It is very concerning that your company would knowingly advertise during a television show that condones and promotes transgender lifestyles to an audience that is almost exclusively watched by young teens and children…Will your company continue to advertise on this irresponsible show?” Caton claimed that they got Kodak to stop sponsoring the show this past November, but that turned out to be false: the company was just taking a one-week “planned pause,” and felt no pressure from the FFA.

Another mission against our wicked lifestyles the FFA has undertaken: warming unsuspecting families about Disney World’s Gay Day (��How would you feel if you entered the Magic Kingdom anticipating a normal day of fun with your family only to witness thousands of same-sex couples holding hands, hugging, kissing, and wearing tee-shirts that promoted their lifestyle?”). At least someone is thinking of the children.

10. “Ellen”

The perception of “Disney=Gay Lovers” has been around for a while, actually. In 1997, over 12,000 Southern Baptist Convention delegates agreed to shun the House of Mouse, largely because the Disney-owned ABC network planned to broadcast an episode of “Ellen,” in which star Ellen DeGeneres (or “DeGenerate,” as Jerry Falwell referred to her) would “air her homosexuality,” a phrase used by the not-at-all-biased Baptist Press. The religious group pleaded with advertisers to drop their financial support for the “lesbian episode” of “Ellen,” but only one did (Wendy’s—remember that the next time you’re eating a Baconator). “The Puppy Episode” was seen by over 40 million viewers, and the hate was overshadowed by the amount of support “Ellen” and DeGeneres received. And where’s Falwell now? That’s right: he’s DEAD.