Corrected on 6/6/08: An earlier version of this blog incorrectly spelled a Fox spokesman's name. The correct spelling is Scott Grogin.
This week, I received an intriguing E-mail from Glenn Sacks, a men's advocate and journalist, crying foul about the possibility that a reality show called Bad Dads might air on Fox. The show's producers and officials from the National Child Support Center plan to hunt down deadbeat dads and humiliate them into paying child support with the cameras running, according to an article first published in the Hollywood Reporter and then by Reuters, which calls the concept "ambush reality TV—but for a noble cause."
The show's premise peeves men's activists, who say it perpetuates the stereotype that men are irresponsible when it comes to child rearing. Ned Holstein, the executive director of the advocacy group Fathers & Families, says: "According to U.S. Census data, noncustodial mothers are 20 percent more likely to default on their child support obligations than noncustodial fathers. There is absolutely no reason to name the show Bad Dads when the average noncustodial father is more likely to pay his child support than the average noncustodial mother." Adds Sacks: "The worst part about Bad Dads is the way it publicly humiliates children of divorce by depicting their fathers as not loving or caring for them. These children did not volunteer to be humiliated on national television."
Thousands have written, faxed, or called Fox to protest the show's launch, according to Sacks. There are people protesting the protest, too. One man, who emphasizes that he himself pays his child support, wrote the following to Sacks, who then posted it: "There are huge numbers of non-custodial fathers who simply walk away from any and all responsibility for their children. This show will attempt to find those selfish , narcissistic scoundrels, who never seem to be lacking for beer, cigarettes, cable TV, trips to Vegas, nice cars, dating expenses, clothes, etc., but are 'unable' to meet court requirements to financially support their children. I can appreciate men having an advocate, but your position doesn't pass the smell test."
A spokesperson for Fox, Scott Grogin, says: "We have currently been pitched an idea for a show with the working title Bad Dads. It is something the network is taking into consideration just as we consider hundreds of other ideas a year." The studio has no firm plans to air the pilot at this point, he says.