'Father of Pride' Loses Family Friendly Backing

Critics Call It 'Downright Smutty'; NBC Returns $50,000 to Advertiser Group

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- The advertiser-backed Family Friendly Programming Forum has withdrawn its funding for NBC's raunchy animated series Father of the Pride.

Initial ads for 'Father of the Pride' had animated pandas and lions making veiled sex references.

The NBC series made by Dreamworks -- the studio behind the children's hit movie franchise Shrek -- initially appeared to be a family-friendly concept. Advertisers who viewed snippets of the show at the NBC ad sales presentation this past spring were under the impression that Father of the Pride was aimed at families.

Veiled references to sex
However, that view soon changed when NBC began running promos for the animated series during the recent Summer Olympic Games showing pandas and lions making veiled references to sex.

The Family Friendly Programming Forum is a 6-year-old unit of the Association of National Advertisers that is made up of more than 40 of the country's largest marketers. Members include Procter & Gamble Co., Wall-Mart, McDonald's corp. and Pfizer. The forum contributes money and other support toward the development of wholesome family-friendly TV programming for the prime-time hours of 8 p.m. to 10 p.m.

The forum initially gave $50,000 to NBC to help underwrite Father of the Pride.

'Downright smutty'
The first episode of Father of the Pride, which aired Aug. 31 at 9 p.m. -- considered an adult time slot -- features an attempt by computer-animated animal couples to mate. A number of press reviews described the show as strictly for adult viewing, with the Utah-based Desert Morning News describing it as "one big off-color joke" and "downright smutty."

Some examples of the cartoon action:

  • An animated orangutan calls his wife "a bitch"; panda Foo-Lin refers to her "slutty sister"; and animal trainer Siegfried is accosted by a sexually aroused chimpanzee.

  • "Big Daddy's home and he's ready for lovin," Larry Lion bellows at one point. "It may be 9 o'clock in New York, but right here it's mountin' time."

  • Larry tells his wife now is a good time to mate because "You're in heat. I'm not hungry. I just peed."

Funding withdrawn
Pfizer Consumer Healthcare's vice president of ad services, Kaki Hinton, who is co-chairman of the Family Friendly Programming Forum, confirmed the funding was withdrawn.

"Regarding Father of the Pride, when we originally read it, it was deemed family friendly by the majority of the contributors to the script fund. NBC has been responsible and they informed us the show would be taking an adult turn and we agreed to eliminate that project from the script development fund."

Not disappointed
Ms. Hinton said she was informed by Marianne Gambelli, NBC Universal's executive vice president for sales and marketing, about the change in content two to three weeks ago. NBC will return the $50,000 investment. "We're not disappointed and no other forum member is disappointed, it is what it is," Ms. Hinton said, adding that just because the forum has rejected the show did not mean its members wouldn't continue to advertise on the show.

Father of the Pride, loosely tied to the lives of Las Vegas entertainers Siegfried and Roy, was the highest rated show the evening of Aug. 31, garnering 12.3 million viewers and a 7.7 rating and 12 share in U.S. households. NBC has ordered 13 episodes of the show, believed to be its heaviest investment this season.

The debut episode was presented commercial-free by Toyota Motor Sales USA's Toyota division. Toyota, which is not a forum member, was pleased with the premiere, because the show was the No. 1 last week, a spokeswoman said.

Media buyers wait
While the initial rating was respectable, media buyers are waiting to see what repeat viewing the show gets this week before calling it a success.

Because of concern over accusations of censorship, the forum said that while it gets involved with a program while it's in the script stage, it does not monitor shows once they're on the air. The fund is supporting two other shows this fall, ABC's Savages, produced by Mel Gibson, about a single dad trying to raise a brood of rowdy boys, and the CBS drama Clubhouse, a baseball drama centered around a 16-year-old boy.

Ms. Hinton said the fund is also preparing to ramp up publicity for its efforts. "We are taking our mission to a higher level," she said.

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Jean Halliday and Jack Neff contributed to this report.

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