Network Editing Elicits Mixed Reactions

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Two filmmakers voiced starkly different reactions to changes made in their films by the networks that will broadcast them for the first time Sunday night. A writer of "Problem Child" was pleased with NBC's cuts; the producers of "A Fish Called Wanda" protested ABC's deletions.

"I'm happy they're cutting those lines," said "Problem Child" writer Scott Alexander after being told that NBC is deleting references to the adopted title character being "a secondhand kid" and "not a real kid, he's just adopted."

Alexander said he did not write the lines in question. They were authored by other writers on the production.

"It was never our intent to offend or insult anybody," Alexander said. "I always thought the lines in question were totally unnecessary."

The two lines were among three pages of material deleted from the 1990 theatrical release by Andrew Brewer, NBC's manager of program standards and an adoptee himself.

The National Committee for Adoption has called for a viewer boycott of "Problem Child."

Meanwhile, ABC was condemned for its editing of "A Fish Called Wanda" by both John Cleese, writer, star and executive producer of the film, and producer Michael Shamberg.

"We are disappointed that 'A Fish Called Wanda' will be cut for its ABC broadcast this week to accommodate pressure groups," they said. "We apologize to the audience that they will not be seeing all of the film's original humor intact."

ABC spokesman Jim Brochu said, "All theatrical films are edited for broadcast and we haven't bowed to any special interests groups at all in this instance." While ABC had said it would try to reduce the mockery of a stuttering character played by Michael Palin, Brochu denied published reports that all scenes of stuttering had been eliminated.

The 1988 film has been criticized by the National Stuttering Project, but the group's media relations coordinator, Ira Zimmerman, said this week that it has "never asked ABC to edit one second of 'A Fish Called Wanda.' "

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