NEW YORK - The Fox network said Tuesday it will air a special next month, "Who's Your Daddy?", where a daughter given up for adoption as an infant attempts to guess the identity of her birth father for a $100,000 prize.
Activists in the adoption community immediately attacked the special, which will air for 90 minutes on Jan. 3.
"This is really perverse," said Adam Pertman, executive director of the Evan P. Donaldson Adoption Institute, a research and policy organization. "It takes a deeply personal and important experience and turns it into a money-grubbing game show. I think it is despicable."
A Fox network spokesman would not comment on the special, referring all calls to the producers, who said people shouldn't judge before watching.
"I find it curious that people are calling it that without having seen an episode," said Scott Hallock, one of three executive producers of the series for the Fox Television Studios. "You might get the impression from the title that it is somehow salacious or exploitive. But nothing could be further from the truth."
The woman who is the focus of the show, not identified by Fox, and her birth father were both involved in simultaneous searches for each other.
Her natural dad will be one of eight men presented to her, all claiming to be her father. She will be given opportunities to observe and interview the men to narrow the field, the network announced.
If she correctly guesses which man is her father, the woman can win as much as $100,000. If she is incorrect, the imposter that she chose will win the money, Fox said.
Either way, the special will end with the father and daughter being reunited.
Joseph Kroll, executive director of the North American Council on Adoptable Children, called the idea "repulsive." He said his own 29-year-old daughter is searching for her birth father.
"If someone were to try doing that to my daughter, what I consider to be abuse, I would not behave appropriately," Kroll said.
Pertman, a former Boston Globe reporter and author of the book "Adoption Nation," predicted the television show would denigrate the experiences of families who have gone through adoption.
"It really is sort of one-stop shopping for insulting millions of people, maybe tens of millions," he said.
Producers have already filmed six "Who's Your Daddy?" episodes, although Fox has only scheduled one of them for air at this point. Hallock said participants were sought through ads that made it clear the solicitation was part of a TV production.
Viewers are invited to play the game along with the adoptive daughter; the father's real identity will not be made clear until the end of the show.
All the participants felt it was a positive experience, said Kevin Healey, another executive producer.
"Our main focus was to see that it would be a positive experience and we were determined not to go forward with it if that was not the case," Healey said.
Fox had been known to be working on the show for months. This past summer, in a public tiff with Fox over competing boxing reality shows, NBC chief executive Jeff Zucker revealed Fox was working on the concept. Angry that Zucker had discussed their internal plans, Fox executives wouldn't comment on it.