A conservative advocacy group that urged a boycott of NBC's recently canceled drama about a pill-popping priest turned its wrath Thursday to an upcoming Will & Grace episode that it says will mock Christ's crucifixion.
But NBC executives insist the group's objections stem from faulty details in a press release mistakenly issued by the network earlier this week and that neither a script nor a storyline for the episode in question has been written.
The latest religious flap at NBC flared after the network announced Tuesday that pop star Britney Spears will make an April 13 guest appearance on Will & Grace, playing a Christian conservative talk-show sidekick to Jack, the gay character portrayed by series regular Sean Hayes.
According to NBC's initial synopsis of the episode, Jack's fictional TV network, Out TV, is taken over by a Christian broadcaster, leading Spears' character to do a cooking segment on his show called "Cruci-fixin's."
The American Family Association immediately raised objections to the planned episode, saying it "mocks the crucifixion of Christ" and will "further denigrate Christianity" by airing the night before Good Friday.
On its Web site, the Mississippi-based advocacy group called on its supporters to urge network affiliates to refuse to run the episode and to write letters of protest to NBC.
NBC countered that the dispute stems from an inaccurate press release that went out without being properly vetted.
"Some erroneous information was mistakenly included in a press release describing an upcoming episode of Will & Grace which in fact has yet to be written," NBC spokeswoman Rebecca Marks told Reuters late in the day.
All that has been decided is that Spears will play a central role in an upcoming episode that will likely air sometime in April, Marks added.
There was no immediate comment from representatives for Spears, whose guest spot on the gay-themed sitcom will mark her first public performance since she had her first child in September.
The same organization urged an affiliate and advertising boycott of the recent NBC series The Book of Daniel, a drama starring Aidan Quinn as a Vicodin-addicted Episcopal minister who talks to Jesus.
NBC, a unit of the General Electric Co., yanked the program from its schedule last month after just three weeks on the air, citing abysmal ratings.
The network also had trouble finding commercial sponsors for the show, and several smaller affiliates declined to carry the series, objecting to its portrayal of Christian themes.