The Catholic League protests tonight's 'Ally McBeal'

(Courtesy: Entertainment Weekly)
Is Nothing Sacred?
by Liane Bonin

Not everyone will be watching "Ally McBeal" tonight merely to see how high the leggy lawyer's hemlines will go. Because of last week's episode, which featured a priest pondering whether or not size matters and a nun doling out punchlines about pedophile priests, the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights will be tuning in to make sure that the Fox dramedy doesn't make such irreverent themes habit forming. Having already made its dissatisfaction with such content known to Fox through an open letter sent last Wednesday, the group is now keeping a close eye on both the show and the network behind it.

"Our letter to Fox has already achieved results," Rick Hinshaw, the Catholic League's director of communications, tells EW Online. "Two people in Fox's broadcast-standards department told us they sympathized with our concerns and that they would monitor the show much more closely. They also indicated that they would send their own letter to (series creator) David Kelley and that they would send us a copy."

If Fox seems unusually eager to rap the knuckles of the mastermind behind one of its most popular shows, it may have something to do with the Catholic League's track record. When the League targeted last season's ABC series "Nothing Sacred," a drama focusing on the moral struggles of a less-than-conventional Catholic priest, no less than 30 sponsors withdrew advertising from the series prior to its cancellation in March. While the League has no plans as yet to take a similar approach with "McBeal," Hinshaw warns "that would be an option if this trend continues."

But "Sacred" executive producer and cocreator David Manson doubts that "McBeal" would suffer the same sponsor fallout, regardless of the League's efforts. "The League was able to have an effect on our sponsors because we hadn't found our audience yet," Manson tells EW Online. "I think most corporations are amoral, only interested in selling more products. Since 'Ally McBeal' appeals to the appropriate demographics, this protest won't have much impact." Besides, says Manson, "the Catholic church is an institution that's been around for hundreds of years. I think it can withstand an episode or two of 'Ally McBeal.'"

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