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The Lid's Not Quite Shut On 'Garbage Pail Kids' At Cbs

October 10, 1987|DIANE HAITHMAN | Times Staff Writer

The Garbage Pail Kids, seemingly put in the dump by CBS, may yet crawl out.

Yanked from the Saturday morning lineup just three days before it was to have debuted last month, CBS' animated "Garbage Pail Kids" series remains in production--even though a corporate spokeswoman says the network has no plans to air it.

"It is not going to be on the schedule later," declared Alice Henderson, vice president of communications for the CBS Broadcast Group. She said she was unaware that the series, a CBS production based on the controversial gross-out trading cards, was still being produced.

That it is was confirmed by Judy Price, vice president of children's programs at CBS.

"It ain't over until the fat lady sings," she said in an interview. "It (the cancellation) doesn't mean that I'm going to stop trying (to get the show on the air)."

FOR THE RECORD
Los Angeles Times Tuesday October 13, 1987 Home Edition Calendar Part 6 Page 3 Column 6 Television Desk 1 inches; 24 words Type of Material: Correction
A story in Saturday's Calendar misidentified Taft Entertainment as the producer of "The Garbage Pail Kids." The series is a CBS production that is not on the air this season.

CBS' internal conflict over the fate of "The Garbage Pail Kids" is just one element in the confusion that continues to surround the network's abrupt Sept. 16 announcement that it was canceling the show--a decision so unexpected that even the show's writers found out about it in the next day's papers. (With no time to mount a replacement series, CBS extended "Muppet Babies" from an hour to 90 minutes, using "Muppet Babies" reruns for the third half hour.)

Who made the decision? And why? It depends on who you ask.

Price, the executive in charge of the production, said the decision to pull "Garbage Pail Kids" was a corporate one and that she didn't know why it was made. "We were delighted with the show; it had gone through all the proper channels of Program Practices," she said.

Henderson said the decision was made purely on artistic considerations by the entertainment division, the department in which Price works. B. Donald Grant, president of CBS Entertainment, did not return calls to his office.

Although CBS waited until the last minute to get rid of it, "The Garbage Pail Kids" has been plagued with controversy ever since CBS announced last spring that it was on the fall schedule.

Officials at many of CBS' affiliated stations wrote to protest the show. Some had decided not to run the series even before it was canceled. Parents and special-interest groups also assailed CBS and potential Saturday-morning TV sponsors with letters and phone calls. Later, some advertisers expressed reservations about being associated with "Garbage Pail Kids."

All of this happened without any of the protesters actually seeing the show.

Price repeatedly asserted that the show would be wacky but in good taste and would not, as some of the protesters feared, include the grossest elements of the popular cards manufactured by Topps Chewing Gum--such as deformities and violence. But some critics, such as Peggy Charren, president of Action for Children's Television, argued that even a sanitized show would do a disservice by indirectly promoting sales of the cards.

The group that went the farthest with its protest was the Tupelo, Miss.-based Christian Leaders for Responsible Television, whose president, Rev. Donald Wildmon, acknowledged that the organization asked advertisers to disassociate themselves from "The Garbage Pail Kids." He believes they cast the decisive vote in CBS' 11th-hour decision to pull the series.

"We have very little influence over the networks but we do have influence over the advertisers," Wildmon said in an interview. "The response from the public--that alone wouldn't have stopped (CBS from airing the show); it was that combined with the fact that the advertisers were unwilling to buy it."

CBS' Henderson branded as "hogwash" the suggestion that it had bowed to outside pressure in withdrawing the program.

Jerry Dominus, vice president of sales at CBS, acknowledged that it was "not untrue" that some advertisers were wary of "Garbage Pail Kids," but said the decision to pull it was based solely on the quality of the show. He said some advertisers had balked because the show was not ready early enough for them to preview; nonetheless, all the advertising time had been sold, he said.

"There are people who object to everything--there are people who objected to Walter Cronkite," Dominus said. "I don't talk about who wanted out, I don't talk about who wanted in. Fortunately, we have a broad range of advertisers."

A representative of one potential advertiser, Nabisco Brands, said the company had been unwilling to commit to "Garbage Pail Kids" before seeing it, but the network pulled the show before Nabisco was forced to make a decision. The company "was not displeased" about it, the spokesman said.

Another theory advanced by some people associated with "Garbage Pail Kids" was that CBS dumped the series because a recent feature film called "The Garbage Pail Kids"--based on the same cards but otherwise unrelated to the TV venture--was reviled by the critics and bombed at the box office. Henderson said the film did not influence CBS, either.

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