ABC’s new comedy In the Motherhood, which debuts March 26, will cease incorporating anecdotes from real parents after the Writers Guild of America expressed concern that the net wasn’t compensating people for the submissions. As The New York Times first reported, the WGA blanched at the notion that ABC was soliciting embarrassing tales of parenting woe to help to fill out the single-camera series that stars Cheryl Hines (pictured), Megan Mullally, and Jessica St. Clair as three very different moms. The franchise already had a fan base (it started as a webisode series
starring Chelsea Handler and Leah Remini, sponsored by Suave and
Sprint), so ideas have been pouring into ABC.
Though it certainly wasn’t cash, the producers were offering an attractive incentive: Fans would get a screen credit if the anecdotes were used — a clever, if unorthodox, tactic to get viewers more invested in a new comedy when so few are working today. But that didn’t sit well with the WGA. “This kind of call for submissions is not allowed for in the contract,” says WGA spokesman Neal Sacharow. “It’s not our goal to curtail experimentation, but people who do the work should get paid for it.” These kind of submissions deserve the WGA minimum, he added, which is roughly $7,000.
Rather than address the payment conundrum, ABC will forgo the use of submissions for now — though some will remain intact for the first couple of episodes (for example, the producers incorporated a story from a woman who wrote in about the time she accidentally put a wine cooler in her kid’s lunch box). ABC still plans to honor the ardent viewers who tune in to Motherhood’s six episodes, which is all ABC is producing this season (see Ken Tucker’s review). Says an ABC spokeswoman, “Since the idea for this series was born online, we wanted to make sure we served all those fans. We decided creatively the best use of the site is to build a destination for moms and fans to share their stories and engage with one another. Viewers are encouraged to be part of the community at www.inthemotherhood.com, and will be randomly thanked on-air for doing so each week by the cast.”