Controversy surrounding NBCs new drama The Book of Daniel, a show about a pill-popping Episcopalian priest and his dysfunctional family, has prompted affiliate networks and advertisers to pull their support for the program.
The New York Times reported that 5 of NBCs 232 affiliates chose to pre-empt the series, which attracted only 9 million viewers during its two-hour premier last Friday due to complaints from local viewers.
In one market, NBC affiliate WTVA in Tupelo, Miss., reported receiving over 1,500 e-mails and calls asking them not to air Daniel the largest viewer reaction to a program in the stations history, according to the American Family Association (AFA), the Christian pro-family group located in the same community.
Along with local stations, the AFA, which has spearheaded conservative protest efforts against Daniel, reports that advertisers have also responded to the backlash against the show, with three of the five advertisers on the shows premier Chattern, Combe Inc., and H&R Block having already announced that they will no longer advertise on the program, which only aired 23 commercials during its premier last Friday, adding up to about half the usual commercial load for two hours in primetime, according to sources.
Kevin Reilly, president of NBC Entertainment, called the advertising situation for Daniel an age-old issue.
"We want to run contemporary programming, and we want to create the best possible environment for advertisers, said Reilly, according to the New York Times. "Sometimes, those two things don't always go hand in hand. Sometimes, you have to experiment to find the right side of the line."
The Book of Daniel has drawn criticism from both Christian and mainstream media for the behavior of the shows main characters, the Webster family, which include a homosexual son, a pot-dealing daughter, and an alcoholic wife.
Christian groups have been especially vocal about the shows portrayal of Jesus Christ, played by actor Garrett Dillahunt. Colorado Springs-based group Focus on the Family described the character as being a wimpy, white-robed visitor who cares little about evil, addictions and perversity.
The Rev. Mark H. Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League of North Carolina, wrote in a recent commentary that the show was a slight on genuine faith in Christ, saying that it highlights and emphasizes a form of godliness, but denies the power of the Gospel to transform a life.
Jack Kenny, the programs writer and producer, said that he never intended to, poke fun at Jesus, saying that the shows characters believe in God [and] believe in Christ as their savior, according to Religion News Service.
Despite the controversy, NBC has decided to continue running the The Book of Daniel, which is a limited-run series, through Feb. 3.