Cajuns Ragin' at "Hillbillies"
Thu Apr 10,
By Joal Ryan
What's so funny about a reality show version of The Beverly Hillbillies? Nothing, according to a growing chorus of critics.
The state senate in Louisiana is the latest to holler, approving, by a 23-1 vote Wednesday, a resolution taking CBS to the woodshed over plans for The Real Beverly Hillbillies.
"Airing such a TV show," the legislation says, "involves humiliating, stereotyping and discriminating against persons of extreme poverty."
The resolution comes in the wake of 43 U.S. Congress members, largely from states such as Kentucky, North Carolina and West Virginia, drafting a letter expressing similar concerns and dovetails with ongoing anti-Hillbillies efforts by a Kentucky-based advocacy group, the Center for Rural Strategies.
Louisiana State Senator Kenneth M. "Mike" Smith, who drafted the legislation looked at in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, this week, says he took up the issue, because "we felt like this was in very poor taste."
"This" is a show that does not exist. Yet.
Last summer, CBS dispatched casting agents to "mountainous rural regions" in search of a family to star in a new reality series aimed at mimicking the old sitcom The Beverly Hillbillies.
The plan is for a multi-generational group of kin, like the Clampetts of the 1962-71 comedy series, to be transplanted from said "mountainous rural region" to highfalutin Beverly Hills, their big-city misadventures recorded for posterity and prime time.
"Imagine the episode where they have to interview maids," one CBS exec said, per critical newspaper ads purchased by the Center for Rural Strategies in January.
It's attitudes like that and flyers distributed in Kentucky's Appalachian mountains offering a $1,000 reward for "tips leading to suitable subjects," per the Louisiana resolution, that have raised red flags for the likes of Smith.
While the lawmaker concedes that other reality TV shows aren't exactly in good taste, he says "this one, in particular, hits home."
"Twenty percent of America is rural. You're talking about 60 million Americans," Smith says. "To make a mockery of these people--everybody's real concerned."
Few are as concerned as Dee Davis, president of the Center for Rural Strategies, which now counts more than 50 groups and individuals, including Oscar-winning rabble-rouser Michael Moore, among its allies in the fight.
"The Beverly Hillbillies were caricatures," Davis says. "If they're going to try to go out and find people who fit those stereotypes, I don't see how that's going to help rural America."
Davis' efforts earned him a sit-down with CBS President Les Moonves in February. Moonves was said to have listened. But did he hear?
On Thursday, a CBS spokeswoman said the status of The Real Beverly Hillbillies remained unchanged--it's in the casting and development stage.
"CBS and Viacom [the network's parent company] continue to discount the visceral response," Davis says. "They continue to discount how upset this makes people."
In Louisiana, and elsewhere, the movement continues. Smith's resolution next goes before the state house of representatives.
Says Smith: "I hope CBS has enough concern for this country and for its people to not betray them." [/quote]