6:14pm PT by Michael O'Connell
'Real O'Neals' Producers Intend to Court Catholics, Not Alienate Them
The Real O'Neals is just alright with Jesus. That's what producers had to say about the small controversy sparked by several religious groups that have taken open issue with its depiction of Irish Catholics and its inclusion of a teenage gay character.
Groups such as American Family Association and the Family Research Council have called for a boycott and petitioned ABC to pull the midseason sitcom. And while network chief Paul Lee made it very clear that wouldn't happen earlier on Saturday, producers speaking at the Television Critics Association winter press tour suggested that those taking issues with the show should watch it first.
"I think it's a faith-affirming show in a lot of ways," said executive producer Casey Johnson. "People need to see the show and what it's about. That criticism is coming before anyone has actually seen the show."
"Faith is an important part of their lives," echoed David Windsor, referring to the seemingly dysfunctional family at the center of the comedy. "We forget in Los Angeles and New York that a lot of the country is going through a significant change right now, and the church is a part of that."
Jesus, or rather an imaginary manifestation of him, is also a recurring character on the show. Actor Noah Galvin's character talks out his own conflict about things with Christ in several fantasy sequences. The cast joked that they feel "really calm when he's on set."
"We never felt like it was ever the butt of the joke," said fellow producer Todd Holland. "I can't stand when people condescend to people of faith. That's not the idea at all."