Saturday, November 23, 2002

`Hillbillies' reality show under fire

They're making `fun of poor, rural people'

The Associated Press

WHITESBURG, Ky. - An eastern Kentucky group plans to launch a national newspaper advertising campaign to convince CBS to stop casting for a new reality show based on the The Beverly Hillbillies.

Dee Davis, president of the Center for Rural Strategies, said in a phone interview Thursday that his group plans to take out newspaper ads in some of the nation's biggest papers. He said he believes the show will make rural Appalachian families the butt of a bad joke.

"In essence, what they're doing is creating a program to make fun of poor, rural people," Mr. Davis said.

"Really, where CBS may think rural folks are the last people it's OK to laugh at, our feeling is that they've gone too far and CBS needs to rethink what they're doing."

CBS wants to place a family from a rural setting into a Beverly Hills mansion, paying them a hefty sum each week.

Producer Wendy Cassileth with CBS Studios in Los Angeles, who was in the southern West Virginia coalfields doing casting for the show, said the family will be filmed for a year, which CBS executives hope will be a cross between reality television shows Survivor and The Osbournes.

Casting for the show is being conducted in the Appalachian states of West Virginia, Kentucky, Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia. A casting agent is also looking for a family in Missouri.

Mr. Davis said the CBS show will hold not only poor, Appalachian families up for ridicule, but also families in the same situation across the country.

"These shows are cheap to produce, and, if they hit, they're very profitable," Mr. Davis said. "What CBS is saying is, in essence, when it comes to profit, other considerations like ethics, don't matter."

Ms. Cassileth said the producers aren't looking for a hillbilly bunch to make the butt of hillbilly jokes.

"To me, it's not about that, not about another TV show, it's about what is the perspective of a country family, like a real family from the heart of this country, what is their perspective on Beverly Hills?"

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`Hillbillies' reality show under fire