Originally based on a Dan Savage idea about a Catholic family that includes a gay teenage son, The Real O’Neals had been an internal ABC favorite. But the network made adjustments when religious and conservative organizations waged a campaign against the project, based largely on their opposition to the outspoken Savage. ABC now says the comedy changed during development, with the story evolving in a “different direction,” more in line with the network’s popular crazy-family comedies.

Even so, questions about the controversy, Savage’s involvement, and its depiction of the Catholic church kicked off the show’s TCA Q&A.  The executive producers came well prepared. Savage remains credited as an exec producer, but did not attend the TCA panel.

“It’s a faith-affirming show,” insisted EP Casey Johnson, adding “people need to see the show and see what’s it’s about.” She added, “For me, it was about the image of perfection and how we want our family to seem, and how we pose for Christmas cards.”

Said EP David Windsor, “at the end of the day… it’s about this family that just loves each other, and faith is an important part of their lives.”

EP Todd Holland jumped in: “This is my family… except my father wasn’t as caring as Pat” (O’Neal, the Chicago Police Department officer contemplating divorce and played by Jay Ferguson). Holland, married with husband and 5-year-old triplets, says it took the arrival of his kids to finally bring around his mother, “and she is now the most loving grandmother…It’s a journey, rife for years of comic conflict.”

As ABC did with Fresh Off the Boat last spring, The Real O’Neals will get a double run at 8:30 PM and 9:30 PM in the Wednesday comedy block on March 2, before moving into its regular Tuesday time slot on March 8.