Despite strong ratings, foes still protest 'The PJs'
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From Jim Moret
LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- Even before it made its official debut, Fox's new foamation comedy, "The PJs," was accused of showing TV audiences a negative view of inner city life. Still in its infancy, the show continues to spark animated protests, but has managed to generate strong ratings as well.
"We're concerned that the show does not present an accurate and honest depiction of the African American community. It does present racially demeaning and offensive stereotypes," says Earl Ofari Hutchinson, director of the Coalition Against Media Exploitation.
The show revolves around the life of an African American building superintendent in a central city housing project. Thurgood Stubbs, voiced by Eddie Murphy, takes care of his building in the Hilton-Jacobs Projects and deals with the colorful characters who inhabit it.
Najee Ali, director of Project Islamic H.O.P.E., says his group is not trying to cancel the five-week-old show. "We don't want people to say that we're trying to take the show off the air. We just want a better show," says Ali.
"PJs" executive producer Larry Wilmore says groups critical of "The PJs" miss the show's humor.
"We got attacked for showing the men drinking 40-ounce bottles of beer, that was one of the attacks," says Wilmore. "The joke was, this is how they shouldn't end up ... and that was missed because all they saw was the bottles."
Filmmaker Spike Lee has also spoken out against the show. Lee recently criticized "PJs" co-creator and star Murphy for making an anti-black show.
Shawn Michael Howard, "PJs" voice actor, responded to Lee's criticism saying, "So who is Spike Lee to say this is bad for this, or this is good for that? People should be able to make up their own minds."
Show producers insist "The PJs" is just a comedy.
Even the NAACP has come under attack for not taking a stand against the controversial show. The most recent protest came Sunday evening outside the organization's Image Awards.
But some of the arriving celebrities voiced support for the show and the dialogue it is generating.
"It matters enough for them to get mad or matters enough for them to laugh out loud. And I think 'The PJs' is a show that's, you know, hitting people where they live, and that's a good thing" said Phil LeMarr of "MadTV."
D.L. Hughley, of ABC's "The Hughleys," also defended the show, "I certainly respect their right to do the show, and if anybody would have a problem with it, it should be me," he said. "They're our competition, but I think there's enough room in this television landscape for anybody that is bright."
In its debut, "The PJs" pushed aside much of its competition to finish 13th for the week. It continues to perform well for Fox. But whether they win or lose in the ratings game, producers remain proud of the show.
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