Critics and ABC execs seem very positive about the network's
new comedy, Don't Trust the B---- in Apt. 23. But some station
execs predictably aren't thrilled about the name.
Debuting on ABC at 9:30 Wednesday night, the barely-veiled
reference to "bitch", coupled with sister ABC comedy GCB (which is based
on a book called Good Christian Bitches),
has sparked some unease in a small minority of the affiliate community.
A vocal handful of ABC affiliates suggest the network might
clean up its language. "It causes problems with advertisers, and we get phone
calls from advertisers and viewers," says Mike Lee, vice president and general
manager of KXXV Waco. "Viewers are mad at the network, so they're mad at the
station because we are ABC in Waco."
Networks face the daunting task of their programs appealing
both to the coasts and the heartland. Some on the ABC affiliates side say less
provocative show titles might make everyone happier.
"I'd prefer more mainstream names," says Michael J. Hayes,
president and general manager of WTAE Pittsburgh. "And I think that's what the
But most ABC affiliates say the title is not an issue and
have not heard from significant numbers of upset viewers in advance of Don't Trust the B----'s premiere. "The
concern level has been very low," said Bill Hoffman, ABC affiliates board
chairman. "Let's see what happens as the show gets some weeks under its belt."
If issues did arise, ABC enjoys one of the more productive,
and less acrimonious, relationships with its partner stations; the affiliates
board and the network meet in Vegas April 16.
The ABC network did not comment on the â€˜B' shows. According
to an AP story, Paul Lee, president of ABC Entertainment, said in January of
the word "bitch" that "on broadcast television, as it turns out, that
isn't a word you want to use in the title."
Advertiser unrest has been mostly quiet for Don't Trust the B---- in Waco, but Lee
notes that, of course, change. "It may be too new to garner attention yet," Lee
Good Christian Switches
GCB was known in
development as Good Christian Bitches,
before ABC made the B stand for Belles, and ultimately named the show GCB. That program caused a much bigger
stir than Don't Trust the B---- due
to perceived slights from the religious community. One GM in the Deep South
says he got a series of calls, presumably from the same church after a pastor
brought up the new show to the congregation, the callers rhetorically asking if
anyone would create a similar show about Muslim women.
Local TV general managers say the firestorm over GCB mostly subsided after the name was
changed. "I'm surprised by how light the criticism has been," says Mike Devlin,
president and general manager of WFAA Dallas, where GCB is set. "People are amused by it more than anything else."
Joe Pomilla, president and general manager of WSOC
Charlotte, says GCB sparked some
hesitance in advertisers, though that's perhaps more about a program being new
as it's about being risquÃ©. "Often with a new show, advertisers will take a
wait and see attitude," he says. "They want to see if it pulls numbers, more
than about it being controversial."
last month to a 2.2 rating in the 18-49 demo, according to Nielsen, down
29% from Pan Am's premiere in that
slot in the fall. It was up a tenth of a point a week later.
One ABC general manager says he tells viewers unhappy about
the "B" shows the same thing: If you don't watch it, there's a better chance of
the show going away.
So-called "hit lists" in stations' sales departments are not
uncommon. More formally known as a "not preferred list," it's a lineup of
advertisers who've asked not to air their spots in a certain show. Marketers
may avoid the daytime conflict shows, citing questionable taste, and some have
even asked out of hit sitcom Modern
Family, for language or lifestyle reasons. For their part, Desperate Housewives and Wife Swap were often hit-listed for some
ABC affiliates during their runs too.
Multiple ABC affiliates cited NYPD Blue, which frequently pushed the boundaries of risquÃ©
content, while discussing ABC's current provocative pair, though they note that
the controversies around the "B" shows are far tamer than they were for
the cop drama.
KXXV's Lee says he has a list "as long as my arm" for GCB -- primarily national and regional
advertisers, which are the station's typical primetime clients, with local
advertisers going in news and syndication. He said he was not comfortable
sharing their names.