NAMI Protests ABC’s Wonderland With Commercial Sponsors

Astrazeneca Is First To Withdraw Support, Show Loses 22 Percent Of Audience In Second Half-Hour

Apr 03 2000

Arlington, VA - The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) has contacted companies that sponsored the premiere of ABC’sWonderland, asking them to pull support for the program because the show "reinforces ignorance and stigma" toward mental illness through "a sensational and one-dimensional portrayal that reduces people with mental illness to caricatures or stereotypes—subjects of humor or derision."

"By making a strong link between mental illness and violence, Wonderland hurts my own daughter and countless others who struggle toward recovery," said NAMI Executive Director Laurie Flynn in a letter to CEO’s. "Set in a big-city psychiatric hospital,Wonderland offers only a very narrow view of our world, involving the most extreme cases."

NAMI also has organized a coalition of mental health organizations that have called for the White House to challenge stigma in the entertainment industry and is encouraging people with mental illnesses, their families and their friends to contact the show’s sponsors.

One sponsor, AtraZeneca Pharmaceuticals, maker of Prilosec, already has withdrawn support. During Wonderland’s premiere on March 30th, two commercials for Prilosec were aired.

"We are grateful for AstraZeneca’s responsiveness," Flynn declared. "Many people with mental illness rely on them for medication. They have assured us that placement of the commercials with the show was inadvertent and we hope other companies will follow their lead. Wonderland is not a show that any company that cares about people should want to be identified with."

Nielsen ratings published today in Daily Variety revealed that the premiere of the show also ran second behind a repeat of NBC’s ERin the same time slot and lost 22 percent of its audience in the second half-hour.