LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Plans to air a television game show in which an adopted woman picks out her father from a panel of impostors have thousands of people deluging Fox TV with letters and e-mails to get the show shelved.
The "Who's Your Daddy?" show, in which a young woman given up for adoption as a child gets a $100,000 prize for picking out her biological father from a line-up, is the latest in America's obsession with reality TV programming.
News of the show sparked both a grass-roots campaign among adoptive parents and protests from national adoption organizations who called the idea offensive, voyeuristic and exploitative. Six episodes have been filmed but so far only one has been scheduled for broadcast, on Jan. 3.
Fox, a unit of News Corp. Inc., has yet to respond directly to its critics but said in a statement that although the title was "attention-grabbing" it was not indicative of the content.
Deborah Capone, a single mother with a 5-year-old adopted daughter, is behind an e-mail campaign that has generated more than 5,000 messages to Fox in a week asking for a meeting and for the show to be axed.
"By turning adoption reunions into a game show, 'Who's Your Daddy?' takes an intensely personal and complex situation ... and transforms it into a voyeuristic display," Capone said.
Capone said she was astounded at the response although she has heard nothing from Fox. She next plans to encourage her supporters to target potential advertisers and Fox TV affiliates to persuade them to abandon the show.
Adam Pertman, executive director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, wrote to Fox describing the show as "destructive, insensitive and offensive" to the tens of millions of Americans with adoption in their families.
"The very idea of taking such a deeply personal, complex situation and turning it into a money-grubbing game show is perverse, destructive and insensitive to others," he wrote.
Kevin Healey, one of the show's executive producers, said he was taken aback by the reaction given the fact that the participants, their biological parents, and their adoptive parents were all willing and informed.
"Knowing what we did and the lives that we changed for the positive, I was very surprised. I expected there to be a reaction to the title but I felt people would watch it and then make their decisions," Healey told Reuters.
Healey said the idea was inspired by a friend who is adopted. "It came from a very pure place not from a place of trying to embarrass or harm anyone," he said.
Reality programming, in which ordinary people put themselves in embarrassing or emotionally charged situations, has dominated American television for the past three years, producing efforts such as "Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire," "Survivor," "My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiance" and "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy."