GLAAD takes National Geographic Channel to task over Boy Scouts reality series

January 23, 2013

GLAAD is blasting National Geographic Channel for declining to add a disclaimer to a new reality series about the Boy Scouts of America — a group that does not permit openly gay members.

The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation threw its support Wednesday behind a petition — started by a 20-year-old gay Eagle Scout — to get NatGeo to slap a disclaimer onto the start of each “Are You Tougher Than a Boy Scout?” episode.

The show is being used to market Boy Scouts to young viewers and drive up membership, which makes NatGeo a “strategic business partner of the BSA,” GLAAD said.

NatGeo gave The TV Column the same statement that it gave GLAAD on the subject, saying that the cable net is an equal-opportunity employer and that it does “not discriminate in any capacity.”

As for the show, NatGeo said: “We certainly appreciate all points of view on the topic, but when people see our show, they will realize it has nothing to do with this debate [over the Boy Scouts’ LGBT policy], and is in fact a competition series between individual scouts and civilians.”


Fox axed its freshman sibling comedy, “Ben and Kate,” from its Tuesday schedule. (Beth Dubber/Fox)

“Are You Tougher Than a Boy Scout?” — which is slated to debut in March — is being produced for NatGeo by Thomas Beers, the guy behind “Deadliest Catch” and “Ice Road Truckers.”

One year ago, NatGeo Channel President Howard Owens told TV critics that the network had started production on the reality series, in which “weekend warriors, who believe they’re at the top of their game, will compete with the country’s best and brightest Boy Scouts of America” for merit badges in various challenges based on the Scouts’ century-old guidebook.

Beers said that the show would provide guys like himself, who had come within three badges of achieving Eagle Scout status, a second chance, adding: “Frankly, who doesn’t love the Boy Scouts?”

Well, GLAAD, for one. Its president, Herndon Graddick, said in a statement Wednesday that the fact “that National Geographic would brush aside countless gay teens’ suffering at the hands of the BSA, shrugging off injustice as just another ‘point of view,’ is irresponsible.”

Not coincidentally, GLAAD has jumped into this controversy on the eve of a BSA webinar that will teach organization leaders how to use the show to drive local recruitment and fundraising.

In its fall progress report, the Boy Scouts of America anticipated that the show would “generate between 3 [million] and 4 million viewers per episode.”

NatGeo wishes.


The cast and producers of ABC's “Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23” addresses the press. (Rick Rowell/ABC)

“It’s all too clear that this show is just a marketing ploy, crafted by the BSA to boost dwindling membership and distract Americans from the Scouts’ long history of discrimination,” GLAAD’s Graddick said.

“National Geographic Channel is the means to that end and must therefore make it clear where the network stands.”

Comedies get the hook

Bad day for TV comedy.

Fox on Wednesday pulled the freshman sibling comedy “Ben and Kate,” which had been the weakest player, ratings-wise, in its two-hour Tuesday comedy block. “B&K” was averaging 3.1 million viewers (factoring in DVR viewing).

Hours earlier, ABC’s “Don’t Trust the B---- in Apt. 23” got the hook. Same reason, except “B---- in Apt. 23” was averaging 4.5 million viewers — a.k.a. about a million more viewers than watched the unveiling of Oprah’s Lance Armstrong chat last Thursday.

Officially, Fox says that it plans to air its six remaining episodes of “B&K” at some time — but we’ve heard that gag before.

As for “B---- in Apt. 23,” star James Van Der Beek was doing most of the talking Tuesday.

“Sad to say ABC has pulled #Apt23 and will not be airing the 8 remaining episodes any time soon. Translation: we’ve basically been cancelled,” the actor tweeted.

“I know most of you watched us on your own time & platform and that the competitive network scheduling game is irrelevant to you,” he continued via Twitter.

“But network TV is a business dictated by Nielsen ratings. And while that’s an antiquated business model, it’s the only one they’ve got.”

The inaugural drop

Speaking of antiquated business models, Nielsen finally reported Wednesday that about 20.6 million people watched President Obama’s second inauguration Monday.

That’s a steep drop from four years ago, when Obama’s historic first swearing-in attracted an average audience of 38 million.

That first inauguration stands as the second-most-watched in history, behind only President Ronald Reagan’s first inauguration, in 1981, which averaged 42 million people.

While quite a plunge from his first, Obama’s second swearing-in isn’t the least-watched inauguration on record.

That distinction belongs to George W. Bush’s second inauguration, which averaged 15.5 million viewers in 2005, according to Nielsen stats.

This year’s numbers include viewing on ABC, CBS, NBC, Univision, Telemundo, Azteca, MundoFox, PBS, Fox News Channel, CNN Headline News, Fox Business Network, MSNBC, TV One, CNN, Current TV, CNBC, Centric and BET.

Nielsen’s numbers typically include live viewing and viewing off of DVR recordings played back later in the same day.

Nielsen’s numbers typically do not include online viewing or office and school viewing.

The National Association of Broadcasters — catching sight of the numbers Wednesday — boasted that nearly twice as many viewers tuned in to broadcast television networks as chose cable news networks to watch Monday’s inauguration.

The largest crowd was that of NBC, which had 5.1 million viewers from 10 a.m. to 4:35 p.m. Eastern.

An additional 3.9 million viewers picked ABC during the ceremony, and CBS’s broadcast drew 3.7 million viewers.

Meanwhile, an average of 3.1 million viewers tuned to CNN, 2.3 million were watching MSNBC and Fox News attracted 1.3 million.

To read previous columns by Lisa de Moraes, go to washingtonpost.com/
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