March 10, 2005
LOS ANGELES - When the ABC drama "Boston Legal" takes on the issue of alleged media bias in Sunday's episode, it doesn't name names - specifically Fox News Channel.
In the original script, a high school principal blocks Fox News from being aired on campus television sets because he considers the channel biased and inflammatory, according to the network.
But ABC asked executive producer and writer David E. Kelley to remove references to Fox; instead, there is criticism of TV news in general and one network, which is unidentified, in particular.
"We did make some changes to the script per ABC's request, but managed to tell the same story in what we believe is an even more subversive and provocative way," Kelley spokeswoman Stacey Luchs said Thursday.
The revision represents business as usual, the network said in a statement Thursday.
"While real-life situations are often used as original inspiration for fictionalized programming story lines, it is a long-standing industrywide practice not to use real people or actual events," ABC said.
Messages left seeking comment Thursday night from Fox News Channel were not immediately returned.
The Emmy-winning "Boston Legal" stars James Spader and William Shatner. In Sunday's episode (10 p.m. EST), a student seeks an injunction against the TV ban enacted by his principal (Chi McBride, reprising the role he played on a past Kelley series, "Boston Public").
"Look, I know all the networks pander," McBride says in one scene, but he goes on to condemn one in particular that he claims promotes "a political agenda."
Fox News may be safe from ABC, but it's taken hits on a network closer to home. "The Simpsons," which airs on corporate sibling Fox TV, has repeatedly poked fun at the news channel. "It's such an easy target the jokes write themselves," "Simpsons" creator Matt Groening once told The Associated Press.
(In a related corporate relationship oddity, "Boston Legal" is produced by David E. Kelley Productions in association with 20th Century Fox Television - also part of News Corp.'s Fox family.)
The "Boston Legal" episode retains a reference to "Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism," filmmaker Robert Greenwald's documentary accusing Fox News of Republican bias.
ABC rejected Greenwald's attempt to buy commercial time during the episode. That was because it contained repeated references to a competitor, ABC spokesman Kevin Brockman said Thursday.
A message seeking comment from Greenwald Thursday night was not immediately returned.