A Baltimore-based advocacy group critical of the portrayal of a blind man on the ABC sitcom "Good & Evil" has called off plans to dump Lipton tea into New York harbor following an announcement by the beverage's parent company that it would no longer advertise on the show.
But members of the National Federation of the Blind picketed outside the ABC offices in New York and Washington yesterday afternoon and last night in a continuation of a month-long effort to get the network to take the show off the air.
"Now we can drink to the early demise of the 'Good & Evil' show with Lipton tea rather than dumping it in the harbor," NFB president Marc Maurer said in a statement.
Unilever, the parent company of Lipton and a number of other products, said in a statement Tuesday it would no longer advertise on "Good and Evil" because the show did not fall "within established guidelines."
Unilever spokeswoman Sheryl Smith declined yesterday to be more specific. She said the company's decision was made after a regular review of the program and not directly in response to the NFB protests. But she added, "Of course, we take everyone's comments into consideration."
The NFB has complained that the character George, portrayed by Mark Blankfield, reinforces stereotypes of blind people as bumbling and incompetent. ABC has said all the characters in the show, which stars Teri Garr and airs Wednesday nights at 10:30 (Channel 13), were meant to be caricatures.
James Gashel, director of government affairs for the NFB, said yesterday that two other advertisers, Playtex and a company he said he could not identify, had withdrawn their advertising from the show.
"The blind character is held up to ridicule. I don't think there's any question that people are offended by it," he said.
But Playtex spokesman Martin R. Petersen said the company had only scheduled one commercial to air on the show and said its decision to no longer advertise was "coincidental" with the NFB protests.
ABC spokeswoman Janice Gretemeyer said the network would not comment on its relationships with its advertisers on the grounds they are "proprietary." She said ABC has no plans to take the show off the air.
In the most recent Neilsen ratings, "Good & Evil" ranked 69th among 86 rated shows and was seen in about 7 million homes.