As this is probably my last bully pulpit for the show, I want to take this opportunity to thank all the thousands of people on boards, blogs and websites across the Internet who've shown such wonderful, loving support for The Book of Daniel. Love. Support. Tolerance. Acceptance. Forgiveness. Those are the Christian values that I was brought up with, and the values that I tried to bring into the world of Daniel.
It's late now. I've just spent tonight with Susanna Thompson (Judith), Ivan Shaw (Adam), Cheryl White (Victoria) and Fran Bennett (Lorraine) the L.A. contingent of the cast watching the two episodes that were slated to air this coming Friday and next. First we watched No. 105, "Withdrawal." I'm probably prejudiced, but it's good. It's really good. It's funny, rich, loving, smart and surprising. The acting is superb, the direction and design stunning. It is obvious to me that by this episode we had truly found our rhythm and groove. Each character was deepening, as was the writing. Even the production design and the lighting seemed to have grown richer, more layered. But before I could get angry all over again at the injustice of cancellation, we dove right in to the next episode: No. 106, "God's Will."
I've seen 106 perhaps a dozen times now, and every time, I cry. As a matter of fact, every time I cry more. It is a beautiful, complex, heartbreaking chapter in the saga of the Webster family and in our family of cast and crew. I cry because of the tragedy that befalls these good, good people. I cry because of the weaknesses and strengths that combine in them to make them both human and angelic. I cry at the stunning love between Daniel and Jesus, that in turn feeds the overwhelming love Daniel has for his family. I cry because you, the audience the people I wanted most to tell this story to have been stripped of the opportunity to get to know this family, the Websters. And no amount of Nielsen data, or overnight ratings, or bottom lines no gloating letters from people like Donald Wildmon or strident postings from bigots who've never seen the show will ever convince me that it was the right decision to take it off the air. I cannot watch 106 and believe that. No one could. It's just not possible.
I want to make one thing very clear to both the fans of the show and to its foes: Kevin Reilly [president, NBC Entertainment] and NBC have always been the strongest supporters of this show. As disappointed and heartbroken and infuriated as I am with its premature cancellation, the blame, I believe, lies not with them... nor with the advertisers or the affiliates. These are all entities who are trying to run a business. The disappearance of The Book of Daniel can only be blamed on the small-minded people who blindly followed the hate-mongering, money-hungry carnival barkers who dare to call themselves "reverend." Obviously, I'm not speaking about real preachers, pastors, priests or rectors who spend their lives spreading the word of God, doing His good work, helping those less fortunate than themselves. I'm not talking about the men and women who toil for the glory of almighty God. No. I'm talking about those who toil for the glory of the almighty dollar and call it "God's work"! Those people who use and manipulate good, honest Christians, wielding fear and shame as their weapons, rather than love and acceptance as their gifts. Entertainment outlets don't hide behind some facade of high morality. They're a business, and they survive by making money. Well, the same is true of some of these "family organizations" and the like. And they don't make nearly as much money spreading the word of God, as they do silencing the words of others.
If you do some easy research for yourselves, you'll find that Wildmon's hit list of shows that he's attacked over the years probably includes some of your favorites: All in the Family, Golden Girls, Cheers and many, many others. My point is this: We, as thinking people, as free Americans, have to stand up against this kind of virulent attack on our rights. This isn't about a television show. The Book of Daniel is over and gone, and there's nothing that can be done about that. This is about the future. Your future. Your freedom to choose what you want to watch, to read, to see in a movie theater or a museum, or hear in a concert hall because they're all on the List. Please don't think that groups like the AFA and the Parents Television Council will ever stop, content with what they've "achieved." Their stated goal is to clean up television. And for many of us, that means the shows that we watch and enjoy. "Choice" isn't an option, because apparently, they've lost their remote controls along with their tolerance.
And it won't stop with entertainment and culture. What happens when newspapers and news outlets become fearful of advertiser backlash? When "Americans for Clean and Wholesome News" (my own made-up name, I hope!) decides that a news story a gay bashing, the bombing of an abortion clinic or the killing of a minority person is just too darned inappropriate to be printed? What happens when the truth gets altered, or just plain squashed, to fit what some special interest group (masquerading as a religious organization) deems "appropriate"? You lose, is what. You lose your right to make your own decisions, form your own judgments, live your own lifestyle. You lose your right to the truth. And that is the end of freedom. Don't let that happen. Fight back. Form groups of your own. Demand to be given your freedom of choice! It may not be affecting you personally right now, but trust me, if you don't speak up while you still can, one day it will. And by then it might just be too late.