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Thread: Amish Gone Wild project status unsure?

  1. #1
    The race is back! John's Avatar
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    Sep 2002
    On the mat

    Amish Gone Wild project status unsure?

    Viacom sent mixed signals Tuesday on the fate of its controversial reality-show project, "Amish in the City."

    During conference calls with reporters marking the end of the February sweeps, CBS and UPN bigwig Leslie Moonves said that "Amish" was still in development, but "has not been pushed forward." An hour later, UPN Entertainment President Dawn Ostroff said the show was in the casting process, but didn't offer much more than that, even when pushed several times.

    The show would focus on five Amish teenagers living in a house with five non-Amish young adults in a sort of "Real World" experience. It would capitalize on the religion's rite of rumspringa, which allows them to socialize without the supervision they've had growing up until they decide whether to commit to adulthood in the Amish community. The Amish live in 33 states, but most famously in and around Lancaster, Pa., where more than 20,000 reside. They live simply and don't participate in modern technology-- particularly television--and they avoid being photographed or filmed.

    "Amish in the City," the show's working title, has drawn criticism from a number of quarters, and not just from experts on the Amish who are skeptical that even five Amish could be enlisted for the project. U.S. Rep. Joe Pitts, a Pennsylvania Congressman who represents the Lancaster Amish country, got 50 other lawmakers to sign a letter protesting the show that went to Viacom, which owns both CBS and UPN. Moonves' overall responsibility is for both networks.

    "This series is not a documentary on how Amish teenagers struggle with their cultural and religious identity--it's a deliberate attempt to exploit the beliefs and practices of the Amish," Pitts said.

    CBS and UPN received the letter last month.

    "We have total respect for what the critics are saying and what the Congressmen are saying," Ostroff said. "We have every intention of treating the Amish beliefs and their heritage with the utmost respect and decency."

    Ostroff declined to comment on specifics about the show.

    "We are not involved in the day-to-day casting process. It's obviously taking place," she said. "It's like all the other shows that we work on-- it's a process."

    The show had been slated for summer airing on UPN. Neither Moonves or Ostroff would comment on whether it would still air in the summer.

    "We want to be very clear that we're hearing what everyone has to say about it," Ostroff said.

    While the ratings for CBS have given Moonves much to smile about, the CBS chief has also had to weather several storms this season: The brouhaha that erupted over "The Reagans" miniseries, which was eventually yanked off the air and given to Viacom's pay cable channel Showtime, not to mention the Super Bowl halftime show.

    Moonves acknowledged that whenever 51 lawmakers send a letter complaining about something, the network doesn't take it lightly. Yet he also expressed exasperation about the controversies that have dogged some of CBS programming since the "Hitler" miniseries.

    "One of the things that bother us is that reviewers, Congressional people, are commenting about things that are still in the planning stages," Moonves said.

  2. #2
    RESIDENT JEDI MASTER Stargazer's Avatar
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    Jul 2003
    On a Rocky Mountain High
    I thought rumspringa was supposed to be a time for deep reflection and soul-searching. They only have a limited amount of time to decide whether they want to live as practicing Amish or be cast out of the society forever (meaning no contact with their families,ever). Why would someone squander that time on a reality tv show? I don't think this is a good idea at all. Moonves certainly has a way of finding new groups of people to exploit. :nono
    "Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter."- Yoda

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  3. #3
    Premium Member FinallyHere's Avatar
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    Oct 2003
    Rumspringa actually translates to "running wild" so even if the real intent is for deep reflection and soul searching there seems to be a lot more going on.

    Here is a review of a documentary called "Devils Playground" that gives pretty good description of what Rumspringa is.

    Amish Teens Tested in Devil's Playground
    Documentary Reveals Youths' Experiments with 'English' Life

    Devil's Playground director Lucy Walker says she confronted scenes, like the one above, "that you wouldn't expect of any kids, let alone the Amish."

    Faron, the son of an Amish minister, idolizes the late gangsta rapper Tupac Shakur.
    Photo: Lucy Walker

    May 30, 2002 -- They live in a strict society, under tight control of their family and close-knit community. But when they turn 16, Amish teenagers are allowed the freedom to explore the customs of the outside "English" world -- including alcohol, drugs and sex -- before deciding whether to join the Amish church for life or leave the community altogether.

    This tumultuous period, which the Amish call rumspringa -- the Pennsylvania Dutch word for "running around" -- is the focus of Devil's Playground, a documentary by filmmaker Lucy Walker, which premiers Thursday night on Cinemax.

    "They can go to the mall, they can stay out all weekend long. There's no curfew," Walker tells Morning Edition host Bob Edwards. "Their parents are going to turn a blind eye to all kinds of stuff."

    In making her documentary, Walker says she was shocked to find hundreds of teens from Amish settlements in 10 states congregating in "barn hops" and "hoedowns". "They all come together and there will be three fields filled with cars and horse and buggies... and these barns crammed with very drunk teenagers."

    One of the teens in Devil's Playground is 16-year-old Gerald of Indiana, who moves out of his parents' house to a trailer that Walker describes as "party headquarters."

    "I didn't tell my parents for like a month," he says in the film. "They just kept wondering where I was off to and what I was doing... if I was living at home, I couldn't have 200 channels of DirecTV, a stereo and Nintendo and a fridge full of beer."

    Velda, another subject of the film, suffered from depression as she went through rumspringa. Her parents convinced her to join the church but she changed her mind when she realized that "being Amish was actually her problem," Walker says.

    "If you've joined church and then leave, they will shun you," Velda says. "The shunning for them is their last way of showing you that they love you. They think that you're breaking a promise that you made to the Amish church. They're afraid for your soul."

    And then there's Faron, an 18-year-old with an escalating drug habit who idolizes the late rapper Tupac Shakur -- an unlikely hero for a boy who says he hopes to follow his father into the Amish ministry.

    "Sometimes I kind of wish I would have gone Amish when I wanted to," Faron says. "I'd have it easy back there. I'd have a place to live, I'd have a nice job. That's what I was raised to be. I feel like nothing can change that because that's God's plan... My mom really wants me to come back into our church. I told her I might someday, and I might not...."

    And despite the freedom to experiment, Walker is amazed that 85 to 90 percent of the teens do decide to return to the Amish ways and join the church.
    Some people are like slinkies, they're useless until you push them down the stairs.

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