VeggieTales too meaty for American TV

American TV network NBC, which started broadcasting the popular faith-based American home video series, VeggieTales, is in trouble for editing out religious references in the show which has already sold 50 million copies.

Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber always had a moral message in their long-running VeggieTales series, a collection of animated home videos for children that encourage moral behaviour based on Christian principles, the Age reports.

However, now that the veggies are on American network TV, they cannot speak so freely, upsetting the influential American Parents Television Council.

The conservative media watchdog group has issued a statement blasting NBC, which airs VeggieTales, for editing out some references to God from the children's animated show.

"What struck me and continues to strike me is the inanity of ripping the heart and soul out of a successful product and not thinking that there will be consequences to it," said L Brent Bozell, president of the Parents Television Council.

"The series is successful because of its biblical worldview, not in spite of it. That's the signature to VeggieTales."

More than 50 million copies of the series have been sold since 1993, according to Big Idea, which produces the series.

NBC began airing 30-minute episodes of VeggieTales on Saturday mornings this month.

The show was edited to comply with the network's broadcast standards, said NBC spokeswoman Rebecca Marks.

"Our goal is to reach as broad an audience as possible with these positive messages while being careful not to advocate any one religious point of view," she said.

VeggieTales creator Phil Vischer, who was responsible for readying episodes for network broadcast, said he did not know until just weeks before the shows were to begin airing that non-historical references to God and the Bible would have to be removed.

Had he known how much he would have to change the show - including Bob and Larry's tagline, "Remember kids, God made you special and he loves you very much," that concludes each episode - Vischer said he would not have signed on for the network deal.

"I would have declined partly because I knew a lot of fans would feel like it was a sell-out or it was done for money," he said.

All programs set to air on NBC must meet the network's broadcast standards, said Alan Wurtzel, a broadcast standards executive. VeggieTales was treated the same as any other program, he said.

"There's a fine line of universally accepted religious values", he said. "We don't get too specific with any particular religious doctrine or any particular religious denomination."

Talking vegetables stirs up religious bother (The Age, 27/9/06)
VeggieTales & NBC, What's the Big Idea? (Media Release, The Big Idea, 22/9/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Veggie Tales (Wikipedia)
The Official Veggie Tales Site
Buy Veggie Tales DVDs at Ignatius Press

27 Sep 2006