Dan Savage is producing a sitcom, but -- surprise -- not everyone is laughing. Thousands of religious and conservative activists are calling on ABC and its corporate parent, Walt Disney Co., to cancel the forthcoming family comedy “The Real O’Neals,” which centers on a Catholic family whose teenage son comes out as gay.
The series, which had been in development for some time, is inspired in part by Savage’s life growing up in Chicago, but it’s not described as a true autobiography of the outspoken sex-advice columnist and LGBT-rights advocate. ABC announced last week that the show is being picked up for the upcoming fall season.
Media Research Center, the conservative watchdog group behind NewsBusters and CNSNews, wants to put a stop to it, calling Savage “one of the cruelest, most vile political activists in America.” A Change.org petition launched by the group earlier this week has attracted almost 10,000 signatures in two days. The group has been mobilizing critics on Twitter using the hashtag #CancelSavage.
“Dan Savage is a hateful anti-Christian bigot,” the petition says.
A representative for ABC did not immediately return a request for comment. Disney is not likely to yield to pressure to yank the series. The company is noted for its gay-friendly policies and was named by the Human Rights Campaign as one of the best places to work for LGBT equality. At the same time, ABC is not exactly flaunting Savage’s involvement in press materials. Savage is a producer on the series, but he didn’t create it.
Savage rose to prominence in the early 1990s as the author of the weekly column “Savage Love,” known for its frank descriptions of relationships, sexuality, homophobia, gender roles and sexual fetishes. He went on to become a notable spokesman for gay rights and the marriage-equality movement, the driving force behind the “It Gets Better” anti-bullying project and a regular pundit on TV news panels. Savage often finds himself at odds with Republicans and religious groups and has on occasion apologized for his blunt remarks.
“The Real O’Neals” will premiere as part of ABC’s 2015-2016 season. A premiere date has not yet been announced. Watch the trailer below.