There's something almost quaint about WRAZ FOX 50's decision to once again become the only FOX affiliate in the country to pre-empt a reality TV show.
"WRAZ-TV/FOX 50 has decided to preempt future broadcasts of the FOX network reality series Married by America due to content that demeans and exploits the institution of marriage," the station said in a press release issued Sunday.
FOX 50 is owned by one of the last small family broadcasters left in the country, Capitol Broadcasting Company (which also owns WRAL 5). Twice before, the folks at Capitol have exercised their right to limit FOX network shows. In 2000, they refused to air Who Wants to Marry a Multimillionaire because the show "made a mockery out of marriage." A year later, they yanked Temptation Island in the middle of its run after one of the couples under seduction was found to have a child. So the recent move shouldn't be surprising.
What is surprising is that the station decided to air the first two episodes of Married by America at all. Early descriptions made it obvious from the start that the show wouldn't exactly treat marriage as a holy sacrament. We were told the couples would get engaged during the first episodes and immediately start living together. Nevertheless, FOX 50 program director Joanne Stanley was defending the show as late as last Thursday--after the second show had already aired.
"We went, 'huh?' when we first heard about it," she said, "and went to FOX with our concerns. When we heard that couples were allowed to say no--they weren't going to be forced to get married at the end--we decided to air it."
Apparently, the "living in sin" element wasn't a problem for the family-friendly folks at FOX 50. After all, the station aired Joe Millionaire, which contained some not-too-subtle hints that an unmarried couple was rolling around in the bushes. So where is FOX 50 circling the wagons around this supposed sanctity of marriage?
"It's a fine line," Stanley said, laughing. "It helps if we don't actually see anything like that."
Thank goodness for small decencies. But according to Sunday's press release, the FOX network is now hyping the fact that audiences will indeed witness the couples "sleeping together" during their engagement period. The network also now claims that "all five engaged strangers will commit to marriage on this stage." That was enough for the local affiliate.
News that one of the contestants on Married by America happened to be already married--a fact curiously absent from Sunday's press release--probably didn't help.