The Fox network, which drew complaints earlier this year for reality shows about gay impostors and a dwarf looking for his bride, has provoked an organized campaign against its newest reality-show creation, "Who's Your Daddy?"
Angered over a reality show they say trivializes the complex feelings surrounding adoption, a loose coalition of adoptees, adoptive parents, and birth parents has launched a nationwide effort to force Fox to cancel the show's Jan. 3 broadcast.
In the show, an adult woman adopted as an infant has a chance to win $100,000 if she can correctly choose her biological father from among eight men. If she chooses a fake, he will win the money. Five other reunions have been taped but not scheduled.
Critics have deluged the network with e-mails and have requested a meeting with Fox executives. They say they are contacting advertisers and the show's producers.
A San Francisco adoptee, Ron Morgan, is organizing a Jan. 2 protest -- "Honk if You're My Daddy" -- outside Fox Television Studios in Los Angeles.
"This is a new low for the Fox network," said David Youtz, president of Families With Children From China, in a letter sent to Fox president Peter Chernin. "It's hard to imagine a more callous kind of exploitation than the treatment of this most private moment as a crude entertainment."
Youtz said the "circuslike atmosphere" of televised reunions "can only be painful for the many adopted persons searching or considering searching for birth parents," as well as for birth parents and adoptive parents.
Without having seen the show, most protesters lashed out against the title, the use of the phrase "real dad" in a Fox news release (implying, they say, an adoptive father is not real), and the concept of rewarding adoptees with large amounts of cash for selecting the correct birth parent.
"It takes a deeply intimate, important personal experience and trivializes it, turning it into a money-grubbing game show," said Adam Pertman, executive director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, a New York research, policy, and education organization, which first alerted media and other groups about the show last week.
By the middle of this week, an estimated 5,000 e-mails had been sent to the cable network, most using a formatted protest letter provided by As Simple As That, an adoption advocacy group.
Fox executives in Los Angeles this week issued a statement:
"It is not the producers' or network's intention to offend anyone, but clearly the title of this special is attention-grabbing -- possibly contributing to controversy. It is not indicative, however, of the special's actual content. The willing and informed participants are some of the tens of millions of adopted Americans unable to reunite with their biological parent(s). They seized the opportunity to participate, and the result is compelling.
"It is also important to note that this special, in no way, detracts from the relationship between adoptive parents and their children. In fact, most participants clearly state that they consider their adoptive parent(s) to be their 'real parents,' but they are curious about their family of origin."
Earlier this year, gay and lesbian activists protested two Fox reality shows, "Playing It Straight" -- in which contestants were offered $1 million if they picked a straight man or straight woman from among gay and straight suitors -- and "Seriously Dude, I'm Gay," in which two straight men competed for $50,000 by trying to pass as homosexuals.
According to Fox, the first was canceled due to poor ratings, while the second never aired as a result of "creative concerns."
The two-part special, "The Littlest Groom," aired despite complaints earlier this year.
Catholic Television slates specials
Starting today and going through Sunday night, Boston Catholic Television (BCTV) will preempt its regular programming for three full days of Christmas programs. The 72-hour block will include a series of specials and on Christmas Day, Archbishop Sean O'Malley will celebrate Mass for Boston Catholic Television on WHDH-TV (Channel 7) at 9 a.m. BCTV is a viewer-funded cable station and a complete listing of its Christmas lineup is available at www.catholictv.org.
First Night festivities on CBS4
CBS4 (Channel 4), the exclusive television sponsor of Boston's First Night 2005 New Year's Eve celebration, will feature coverage of the festivities throughout the day on Dec. 31 as well as several programming specials. The 6 p.m. newscast will feature live updates from Copley Square followed by 7-7:30 live coverage of Boston's Family Fireworks celebration on Boston Common. From 11 to midnight, anchors Lisa Hughes and Josh Binswanger will host a special that will include coverage of the fireworks and laser light show over Boston Harbor.
Comcast offers military messages
Cable provider Comcast is offering an "on demand" feature that will allow residents to see 20-second holiday season greetings from New England military staff and civilian personnel stationed around the world. The more than 150 video messages can be accessed under the "Get Local" option of the "on demand" feature through Jan. 13 and are available at no cost to Comcast digital cable customers.
Parties that take the cake
If you think a kickin' birthday party means pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey, an ice cream cake, and maybe an innocent game of spin-the-bottle, you're clearly not hip enough to be the focus of an MTV series. The cable network, which used to have some connection to music, will look at extravagent Sweet 16 birthday bashes in the new series "My Super Sweet 16."
MTV has ordered six episodes of the series, set to premiere after "Real World: Philadelphia" at 10:30 p.m. Jan. 18. Produced out of MTV's News & Docs department, the series looks at the goofiest and most expensive coming-of-age parties available, focusing on the girls who demand them and the parents who shell out the big bucks.
"These kids are determined to go all out -- and to out-do all of their friends -- with these ultimate birthday blowouts," said Nina Diaz, the unit's vice president. "Our viewers are in for a wild ride as we go behind the scenes for all the drama, surprises, and over-the-top fun that make up this new breed of 'Sweet 16' parties."
Boxer is subject of ESPN movie
The first African-American to hold the world heavyweight crown, boxer Jack Johnson, will be the subject of an upcoming ESPN biopic. The Johnson movie, following previous telefilms on the likes of Dale Earnhardt and Pete Rose, will premiere on the cable network in 2005.
Johnson held the heavyweight boxing title for six years but may be best known for his racially motivated 1912 conviction for violating the Mann Act, a prohibition against white slavery, by transporting the woman who would become his third wife across state lines. He was sentenced to time in prison but became a fugitive for seven years, fleeing to Cuba and then Europe before returning to serve his time.
"Jack Johnson knocked loudly on the door of a deeply segregated society," says Mark Shapiro, ESPN executive vice president of programming and production.
Johnson's life has been the subject of a number of previous examinations including the 2004 Ken Burns documentary "Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson" and Martin Ritt's "The Great White Hope," a 1970 film in which James Earl Jones earned an Oscar nomination for playing Johnson.
Globe on NECN
Here's what's happening on "Around the Globe" today:
9:30 a.m.: "Talk of New England" -- Boston.com producer Angela Shaw joins the discussion on why Americans are putting off marriage.
12:30 p.m.: "Globe at Home" -- Maureen Goggin of the Globe and Geri Guardino, executive director of First Night, on Boston's 29th annual celebration plans.
4 p.m.: "Around the Globe"
6:30 p.m.: "New England Business Day"
8 p.m.: "NewsNight"
Schedule is subject to change.
Talk of the dial
3 p.m. WUMB-FM (91.9) -- "The Christmas Stocking." Host Glenn Mitchell offers music, trivia, and interviews on various Christmas topics.
Other radio highlights
6 p.m. WCRB-FM (102.5) -- "Joy of Christmas." Thirty continuous hours of music.