Saturday, February 15, 2003

Strickland not amused by TV's new 'Hillbillies'

By Malia Rulon
The Associated Press

WASHINGTON - An Ohio congressman wants to know what in tarnation CBS is thinking with its new show The Real Beverly Hillbillies.

Rep. Ted Strickland, a Democrat who represents southeastern Ohio, is considering writing a letter to CBS president Les Moonves and teaming up with Sen. Zell Miller, D-Ga., to introduce a resolution in Congress opposing the show.

The reality series, which is in the development stage, promises to chronicle the lives of a rural, lower-middle-class family as it moves into a luxurious Beverly Hills mansion, borrowing its premise from the hit 1960s sitcom.

"What is being planned is insulting and could be potentially harmful to the Appalachian region in terms of our public perception," Strickland said. "It could influence decisions by those who may locate a business in the area or invest in the area."

A resolution, if passed, is nonbinding but indicates a collective congressional opinion. Strickland said he doesn't want to get into censorship issues and would oppose any move to force the network not to air the show.

"The network just ought to show more responsibility," he said "I don't think they'd even entertain the idea of bringing someone from a different ethnic background or a different religion and holding them up for ridicule, yet they see nothing wrong with doing this to a region of people."

Casting was being done in West Virginia, Kentucky, Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia.

A spokeswoman from Miller's office said the senator is considering whether to push the resolution in Congress. The stereotypes that people from rural states are hillbillies is an issue "he's fought for a long time," spokeswoman Joan Kirchner said.

Miller dashed off a letter recently to the Atlanta Journal & Constitution accusing the "hoity-toity media moguls" of searching for a rural family that will make their viewers feel that they are superior to someone. "They're dying for a new Cracker Comedy, and with their nose in the air they will keep searching," he wrote.

The Beverly Hillbillies show was about a poor mountaineer named Jed who strikes oil while "shootin' at some food, and up through the ground came a-bubblin' crude," according to the classic theme song.

Buddy Ebsen starred as Jed Clampett, while Irene Ryan played shotgun-toting Granny. It aired from 1962 until 1971, producing 274 episodes.

At one time it was television's No. 1 program, attracting up to 60 million viewers weekly and making popular such phrases as "What in tarnation," "Weeeellll doggies," and "Ya'all come back now, y'hear?"

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