Fringe Factor

Dan Savage’s New Sitcom Will Destroy Us All

Conservative organizations are losing it over a new ABC sitcom that lists the gay rights activist and sex columnist as an executive producer.

05.17.15 4:01 AM ET

Last Tuesday, the trailer for the upcoming ABC sitcom The Real O’Neals dropped online. The new comedy follows a “typical Irish-Catholic family” in modern America—typical in the sense that they have a gay son, an anorexic son, a scam-pushing daughter, and a crumbling marriage.

The trailer offers glimpses of the kind of demographic-appealing, dramedy fare that viewers have come to expect from ABC sitcom-land (Fresh Off the Boat, Modern Family, Black-ish, etc.).

You can watch the trailer below. It’s pretty standard stuff. Who could possibly interpret it as anti-Catholic or mean-spirited?

Well, at least a few usual suspects have found it within themselves to do so. A corner of the Christian right has been waging open war against the show. Part of the supposed problem? The series grew out of a meeting ABC executives had with Dan Savage, a prominent gay-rights activist and sex columnist. Savage is also serving as an executive producer on The Real O’Neals.

In March, Brent Bozell, of the Media Research Center, and Tony Perkins, of the Family Research Council (two conservative organizations with solid track records of hollering chronic outrage), sent a letter to Disney, ABC’s parent company, essentially urging them to ditch Savage and the show.

THE REAL O'NEALS - "The Real O’Neals" stars Martha Plimpton as Eileen, Jay R. Ferguson as Pat, Noah Galvin as Kenny,  Mathew Shively as Jimmy, Bebe Wood as Shannon and Mary Hollis Inboden as Jodi. (ABC/Kevin Foley)
MARTHA PLIMPTON, JAY R. FERGUSON, NOAH GALVIN, MATT SHIVELY, BEBE WOOD

Kevin Foley/ABC

The Media Research Center has also been circulating a petition calling on the network to preemptively cancel the Savage-connected, allegedly anti-Catholic program. And the center’s reaction to the (rather innocuous) new trailer wasn’t much better.

“Frankly, there’s nothing new and it doesn’t look very funny, so ABC’s determination to go ahead with developing the show in the face of protest from the MRC and a host of religious groups and leaders looks like a cultural thumb in the eye,” declared the MRC Culture page last week. The next day, the conservative news site Townhall expressed a similar sentiment with a piece titled, “ABC Sitcom The Real O’Neals is Likely the Most Anti-Catholic Thing You’ll See Today.”

As the series’ premiere date approaches, we’ll see if this small campaign builds, or simply fizzles out. For what it’s worth, social-conservative activists weren’t huge fans of ABC’s Modern Family (which portrays same-sex couples as, you know, human), and that series is still on the air. So if The Real O’Neals gets axed in its first season, it’s safe to say that it will more likely be due to quality rather than right-wing pushback.

Savage did not respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment. But you can watch him debate Family Research Council president Perkins (back in 2008) below. This debate wasn’t about sitcoms; it was about Prop 8 and marriage equality.