Tuesday, October 7, 2003

A victory for 'reality'

CBS: No 'Beverly Hillbillies'

Score a big victory for rural Americans. They seem to have persuaded CBS Television executives to stop plans for a new series called The Real Beverly Hillbillies.

CBS planned a reality TV series featuring a real-life, low-income rural family. In so-called "hick-hunts," they were searching for the perfect stereotypical Appalachian family. They would move them into an opulent California mansion with luxuries and invite the nation to laugh as they bumbled their way through the day.

But plenty of Kentuckians, Ohioans and Appalachian people elsewhere weren't amused - or silent. With the help of the non-profit Center for Rural Strategies, based in Whitesburg, Ky. (population 1,500), they launched a nationwide campaign to change CBS' mind.

With help from some private foundations, the group ran an advertisement against the proposed show in six large newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times and the Cincinnati Enquirer. The story then was reported on cable networks, talk radio and in hundreds of newspapers nationwide. The campaign's Internet site told people how to get involved. Hundreds of thousands did. Several dozen U.S. Congressmen wrote letters to CBS.

Leslie Moonves, president of CBS Television, has refused to say the show is definitely killed, but TV writers and other insiders say it's off. Moonves told a meeting of the Asian American Journalists Association in San Diego recently that opposition to the proposed reality show was "phenomenal" and that CBS paid attention to the public comments.

Dee Davis, president of Center for Rural Strategies, says they'll continue to monitor the status of The Real Beverly Hillbillies and move on to other projects to dispel myths about rural America.

In this day of hyper-sensitivity to diversity and political correctness, Appalachians have been a group that it is still socially acceptable to demean and joke about. But rural folks have spoken up and said "enough" to the Hollywood mockers. Good for them, and for all friends of rural America.

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