Sen.: Hillbilly Reality Show Is 'Bigotry for Bucks'

Tue Feb 25, 2:15 PM ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A senator on Tuesday accused CBS of peddling "bigotry for big bucks" by planning a "reality" show based on "The Beverly Hillbillies," which portrayed a family of simple country folks suddenly transplanted to a posh neighborhood.

In a fiery speech on the Senate floor, Georgia Democratic Sen. Zell Miller called on CBS and its chief executive, Leslie Moonves, to cancel the program, which has already sparked protests in rural areas where casting is being done.

"What CBS and CEO Moonves propose to do with this cracker comedy is bigotry, pure and simple. Bigotry for big bucks," Miller said. "They know that the only minority left in this country that you can make fun of and demean and humiliate ... are hillbillies in particular and rural people in general."

Like the premise of the long-running CBS hit comedy "The Beverly Hillbillies" about a poor mountaineer and his kin who strike it rich on oil, the idea for the new "reality" series is to transplant a real-life family from a humble home in the backwoods to a mansion in Beverly Hills, California.

Also like the original comedy, which aired from 1962 to 1971, the show would try to capitalize on the fish-out-of-water dynamics between the family members and their new upscale environs and neighbors.

Critics of the show, however, have branded it a "hick hunt" designed to hold poor, rural people up to ridicule.

Groups in Appalachia and the South, where casting for the show has been focused, have picketed a CBS affiliate, launched letter-writing campaigns and taken out newspaper ads around the country to try to pressure the network to back down.

"CBS, the once proud and honorable broadcasting company, ... it seems has become just another money grubber," Miller said, attacking Moonves as "a man who obviously believes that network television is an ethics-free zone and it is acceptable for big profits to always come ahead of good taste."

CBS executives met with rural activists earlier this month to discuss the controversy but gave no indication they were ready to cancel the project -- which remains without a cast five months after plans for it were first unveiled.