Up TV Chief Defends '7th Heaven' Quiet Return Post-Stephen Collins Saga
The network originally removed the family drama because of blowback from star Collins' molestation scandal.
Up is back in the 7th Heaven business — again.
The family-focused cable network famously yanked the series in October 2014, in the wake of star Stephen Collins' child-molestation confession, and then again in December, when its decision to reair the series quietly was criticized by TMZ. Just six months later, however, the religious drama returned to Up's schedule, where it now airs three times a day during the week.
"When we first took it off [the air in October], I think we were just kind of watching what was happening, as everybody was, [and] learning what was going on, and we were trying to really pay attention to what our viewers were telling us along the way," Up executive vp and GM Amy Winter explained in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter during the Television Critics Association's summer press tour Thursday.
"We put it on again right before the holiday season, just to test the waters and see what the reaction would be, and it was positive, but people weren't coming back to it in the way that we had hoped," she added, which prompted the network to pull it a second time. But in the months that followed, Winter said her team has been paying close attention to the viewer feedback via pleas on Facebook and phone calls to the network to bring the series back. "We also did some research and found that everybody was like, 'You know what? This is a great family show. It shouldn’t suffer. I would like to watch it. I'd like to watch it with my family. I can get over it.' And that actually resonated."
Winter noted that the repeats have been doing "really well" since the series returned to the Up schedule in June — which is not to say there hasn't been any negative response. "Some people are like, 'Listen, why do you have this guy on the air?' " she added. "But we try to respond to them and say, 'Listen, we hear your feedback, and we're sorry that you feel that way, but overwhelmingly, the majority of people do want to see this show.' "
To be sure, 7th Heaven is one of several TV franchises that have been rocked by scandal in recent years. TV Land pulled reruns of The Dukes of Hazzard in July because of the uproar over the Confederate flag — which appears on the top of the show's iconic car — following the Charleston, S.C., church shooting the month prior. The same network also removed The Cosby Show from its schedule in November after star and creator Bill Cosby was accused of drugging and raping multiple women. Earlier this month, BET's Centric channel and Bounce TV also removed reruns of Cosby programming after a 2005 deposition leaked in which Cosby admitted to obtaining Quaaludes with the intent of giving them to women with whom he wanted to have sex.
Winter anticipates her network will continue to monitor the viewer response for the foreseeable future. "I don’t think we ever stop listening to the feedback," she noted before adding: "I think we're very mindful, but we also don't want to be like, 'It's on! It's off! It's on! It's off!' "