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ABC's extraordinary cancellation of ''Welcome to the Neighborhood'' less than two weeks before its premiere proves that reality television can only handle so much reality.

With a threatened lawsuit and accusations that the network was tone deaf to bigotry, ABC may have traded a major headache for the temporary embarrassment of throwing out a series that was already finished.

But executives must surely be hearing uncomfortable questions about how ABC got so close to the brink in the first place.

The six-episode summer series, which was to debut July 10, was heavily promoted and given the plum ''Desperate Housewives'' time slot. ABC saw it as the potential hit followup to ''Dancing With the Stars.''

''Welcome to the Neighborhood'' followed three families in a comfortable cul-de-sac near Austin, Texas, given the chance to choose who moves in when a neighbor moves out of a 3,300-square-foot home on their block. Each family is white, conservative and initially interested in neighbors like them.