Arts & Entertainment

NBC drops plans for mail-order bride sitcom amid protests

An NBC studios building sign is seen on October 20, 2008 in Burbank, California.
An NBC studios building sign is seen on October 20, 2008 in Burbank, California.
David McNew/Getty Images

NBC says it has dropped plans for a sitcom about a widower who orders a mail-order bride from the Philippines.

Protests had greeted the network's decision last week to develop "Mail Order Family," with an online petition drawing more than 12,000 signers as of Saturday.

In a statement, NBCUniversal said it bought the comedy pitch with the understanding it would tell creator Jackie Clarke's real-life experience of being raised by a "strong Filipina stepmother."

The writers and producers have "taken the sensitivity to the initial concept to heart" and won't move forward with the project, the network said.

The Filipina human rights group Gabriela USA circulated the anti-show petition on Moveon.org. The group said the mail-order bride industry exploits and traffics in poor women and condemns NBC for "making light" of the issue.

Karin Wang, Vice President of programs and communications for Asian Americans Advancing Justice in Los Angeles, agreed. 

"Many of the people that we've spoken to have actually said 'How did a premise like this actually move forward in the first place?'," she said. "Because anyone who does work with immigrant women, with domestic violence, with mail order brides — [or] have any understanding of that industry — finds it shocking that it could be at the heart of a planned family comedy. Because it is an industry that is so rife with potential abuses and criminal activity."

Her organization supported the efforts of Gabriela USA to oppose the new show. She added that the show and the backlash against it highlight concerns people have had with diversity within Hollywood. 

"If you had more people in the entertainment industry working in the chain of decision-making around these types of shows," she said, maybe somebody would have realized sooner that this particular premise was problematic and that an outpouring of concern like this online wouldn't have been a surprise."

Wang said she was heartened by NBC's quick decision to drop the program.

This story has been updated.

Correction: An earlier version of this story mischaracterized how closely AAAJ worked with Gabriela USA. KPCC regrets the error.