The cancellation of "Good & Evil," which pitted Teri Garr as the evil executive of a cosmetics empire against Margaret Whitton as her good sister, had nothing to do with the controversy over the sitcom's portrayal of a blind character, ABC maintained Thursday.
Network spokesman Jim Brochu cited low ratings--the comedy series ranks 77th out of 101 prime-time series that have aired on the four major commercial networks this season--as the primary reason why production was halted after 11 episodes of a 13-episode order.
Ever since its debut Sept. 25, the series from Witt-Thomas-Harris Productions has been under attack by organizations representing the visually impaired, led by the National Federation of the Blind, for its depiction of a bumbling, blind psychologist played by Mark Blankfield.
The federation's director of governmental affairs, James Gashel, called the cancellation a "definite victory."
"I think ABC officials had become aware of the fact that blind people all over the country found this show totally unacceptable and demeaning," he said Thursday from Maryland. "ABC wouldn't talk about the show (to the press). They were embarrassed by it. They didn't consider its portrayal of blind people from the start, and they took a hit over it."
Series creator and co-executive producer Susan Harris sided with ABC in denying that "Good & Evil," which was in a tough time slot on Wednesdays at 10:30 p.m., was canceled because several major advertisers had pulled out of the show under pressure from advocacy groups.
Beyond that, however, she was miffed.
"We are all upset," she said Thursday from her home in Los Angeles. "It was very sudden. The series aired only five times. Once it was opposite the Country Music Awards. Two other times it was opposite baseball playoff games. And (this week) it aired opposite a pivotal game in the World Series."
"To pull it off the air at this point and not try to move it around is not fair," she said. "It was never given a proper time period. This is too good a show to do this to."
Witt-Thomas-Harris has three other series on NBC--the hits "Empty Nest" and "Golden Girls" and newcomer "Nurses." She said they wouldn't do another for ABC without up-front guarantees of getting a better shot at staying on.
Harris, who was once harassed and later embraced by the gay community for the Billy Crystal character on "Soap," said that the blind character in "Good & Evil" would have evolved in a similar fashion given the chance.
"I'm sorry we offended the blind," she said. "It certainly was not our intent. We've always kind of poked fun at and found humor in everything, the darker sides of life as well."
ABC did not immediately announce how many of the remaining "Good & Evil" episodes will air, or what will replace it.