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NBC Affil Drops Daniel

The NBC affiliate in Terre Haute, Ind., says that “due to emails and calls from viewers,” it will not air the debut of NBC’s new drama, The Book of Daniel, which premieres Friday at 9 p.m.

Nexstar Broadcasting-owned WTWO is the first NBC station to bow out of the show. In its place, WTWO will air the movie Simon Birch.  

Station General Manager Duane Lammers, who is also Nexstar’s COO, says hundreds of viewers have lodged complaints.

Lammers plans to screen the first episode Thursday and then decide whether to air future episodes. But the larger issue, Lammers says, is that stations do not get input into the network shows that end up on their air.

That is a common complaint from station managers frustrated that programs picked by executives in New York and Los Angeles don’t play well with viewers in other parts of the country. "I am sick of networks making unilateral decisions," Lammers says. “I am disappointed about programming in general."

WTWO’s move is being hailed by the Tupelo, Miss.-based American Family Association (AFA). The AFA has been attacking the show, urging affiliates not to air the series and calling on advertisers to boycott. The AFA says several major advertisers have pulled out, but will not name them. 

Lammers, however, says his decision has nothing to do with AFA’s campaign. 

The Book of Daniel stars Aidan Quinn as an Episcopal priest with an addiction to pain killers and a stressful relationship with his church superiors. He is guided by a contemporary Jesus who appears only to him.

The AFA says NBC is promoting the show as a serious drama about Christians, but calls Quinn’s character “a drug-addicted Episcopal priest whose wife depends heavily on her midday martinis." In a statement, AFA Chairman Donald E. Wildmon said, “We are tired of NBC’s anti-Christian bigotry.” The group also points to a gay character as another problem with the show.

AFA, formerly the National Federation for Decency, has been urging supporters to call their local affiliate and circulate petitions at churches.

NBC has described the show as "a fictional drama about an Episcopalian priest's family and the contemporary issues with which they must grapple." They go on to say that, "We're confident that, once audiences view this quality drama themselves, they'll appreciate this thought-provoking examination of one American family."--John Eggerton contributed to this report.