- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 25, 2006

NBC has canceled its much-criticized drama, “The Book of Daniel,” about an Episcopal priest and his dysfunctional family, because of low ratings.

The show, which started at 9 million viewers Jan. 6, dropped to 6.9 million on Jan. 13, then to 5.8 million in its last broadcast Friday, network officials said.

“That was a little bit low for us,” said one, who asked that his name not be used. “You try a lot of shows, and the majority of them do not make it.”

But “Daniel” had a lot going against it from the start, including an edgy story line featuring a priest hooked on painkillers, a drug-dealing daughter, a bisexual sister-in-law, a sexually promiscuous adopted son, another son who is a homosexual and an adulterous bishop. The Tupelo, Miss.-based American Family Association urged viewers to boycott the show’s advertisers and seven NBC affiliates dropped “Daniel” as the weeks went on.

Scheduled at 10 p.m. Fridays, viewership started low at 2.7 percent of viewers ages 18 to 49, but had dropped to 1.9 percent by the last episode. It will be replaced tomorrow by “Law and Order” and next week by “NBC Dateline.”

“NBC didn’t want to eat their economic losses,” AFA Chairman Donald E. Wildmon said. “Had NBC not had to eat millions of dollars each time it aired, NBC would have kept ‘Daniel’ alive. But when the sponsors dropped the program, NBC decided it didn’t want to continue the fight.”

Producer Jack Kenny released a short statement.

“Whatever the outcome, I feel that I accomplished what I set out to do: A solid family drama, with lots of humor, that honestly explored the lives of the Webster family,” he wrote. “Good, flawed people, who loved each other no matter what … and there was always a lot of ‘what’!”

Viewers should have had the opportunity to see the episodes scheduled for tomorrow and Feb. 3, he wrote on the Episcopal Diocese of Washington’s “blog of Daniel,” created as a forum to debate the short-lived series.

“I truly believe, in my heart of hearts, that those episodes would have turned the debate around, and that even the AFA would have seen the good that this show could bring to anyone,” he wrote. “Any show takes a while to find itself.”

His remarks received more than 100 responses.

“NBC will keep ‘Fear Factor,’ but get rid of something that inspires. How sad,” one person wrote.

“‘Book of Daniel’ was the worst piece of TV I’ve ever seen,” wrote another. “Poorly conceived, poorly written, ‘Book’ simply threw every human foible it could think of on the screen in the hope that something might stick. I’m a [preacher’s kid] and quite familiar with the fact that priests’ families aren’t exactly perfect, but NBC simply blew it with this one.”

Diocesan spokesman Jim Naughton, originator of the time-consuming blog, says it will probably continue, although he is searching for guest moderators.

“Some days it’s very feisty,” he said.

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