A controversial Mark Burnett (search) reality show about returning kidnapped children apparently won't be getting airtime on CBS, at least for now.
The network reportedly bought six episodes of "Recovery" (search) and there was talk of using them midseason, but the drama hasn't aired and isn't on any of the replacement show lists that are circulating, an industry insider confirmed.
New midseason programs generally begin in January or February.
"Recovery" features former military and government operatives — led by ex-CIA operative Bazzel Baz (search) — performing surprise overnight captures of children who have been abducted, usually by a parent who doesn’t have custody, and turning them over to the parent who does.
The network and Mark Burnett Productions have been keeping mum on plans for "Recovery."
"I don't have any comment on it either way," a CBS spokeswoman said. A spokeswoman from Mark Burnett Productions referred all calls to CBS.
But the network told the Mercury News that the show was dropped because it turned out to be "logistically impossible."
"Recovery" came under fire by some missing children's advocacy groups and federal agencies when the concept was floated.
Burnett, the mastermind behind “Survivor” and “The Apprentice," characterized the missions as rescues done with the help and knowledge of authorities, but the feds said they were illegal and advocates called them “re-abductions.”
“They’re emotionally disrupting a child’s life, and ultimately they’re putting the child at further risk,” James Beistle, executive director of the Texas-based Team Amber Alert (search), told FOXNews.com in November.
Burnett and some who have watched "Recovery" episodes said people were overreacting and should have reserved judgment until they saw the show.
"I have already seen the pilot, and it is nothing like what the opposition says it is," a parent embroiled in his own custodial kidnapping battle told FOXNews.com. "'Recovery' does work with law enforcement officers."
Burnett, CBS and the network's parent, Viacom, haven't been commenting in most press for the show. And may be that Burnett is just swamped: He is currently working on a new version of "The Apprentice" with soon-to-get-out-of-jail Martha Stewart (search) at the helm, along with "INXS Rock Star" (search), a show that seeks a new lead singer for '80s band INXS. The boxing drama "The Contender" (search) — which has had one contestant commit suicide — is also going ahead as planned and airing in March.
In August, the New York Post quoted Burnett as saying that "Recovery" critics “don’t know anything about what we’re really doing ... These are cases where the paperwork is as thick as the yellow pages with court orders, clear custody for one parent — and a child in danger. These are heinous cases."
Certain scenes in the "Recovery" episodes were re-enacted, even though the stories themselves are real, according to some accounts.
Among the show's controversial cases is one involving a little girl kidnapped by her dad, who is seized by rescuers and taken to a Latin American country, according to Beistle.
CBS may be trying to avoid controversy, given the year-plus it's had of Janet Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction" at the 2004 Super Bowl, the Dan Rather "Memogate" flap and the bad press given "The Reagans" miniseries.
"I don't think they want to air anything that would offend the mainstream media," Beistle said. "CBS doesn't want to rock the boat."
There has also been talk that some of the military operatives involved with the show haven't been paid yet, though that couldn't be confirmed.
One American father who has been caught up in his own real-life parental kidnapping drama would have liked to watch “Recovery.”
"I'm a little disappointed that it didn't air, that 'Recovery' program," said Michael Shannon (search), whose 7- and 3-year-old sons were kidnapped in August 2001 by his ex-wife and Egyptian mother-in-law and taken from the United States to Cairo. They’ve been living there with their mother and grandparents ever since. Shannon has full custody.
"It seems Burnett is more effective than the U.S. government with returning children. They're batting zero-for-zero returns," Shannon said.
Last year, the federal government’s National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (search) denounced any reality programs using "commando-style teams to locate and snatch back missing children,” though the group avoided identifying “Recovery” by name.
Beistle has said he thinks the pressure from organizations like Team Amber Alert has made a difference in getting "Recovery" yanked, at least for now.
There are currently about 10,000 kidnapped children living overseas, and scores more in the U.S. who haven’t been recovered. A whole cottage industry has grown up around getting them back to their custodial parents, with vigilante justice-style services offering to snatch back wrongfully taken children for distraught moms and dads, often for a hefty price.