What? The UPN is doing a reality TV show that might be offensive?

THAT’S SHOCKING! [/sarcasm]

I don’t want to judge before seeing the show, but despite what UPN says (see excerpt below), I really doubt that UPN is the network that will depict the Amish with”utmost respect and decency.”

UPN Show Is Called Insensitive to Amish


Published: March 4, 2004

LOS ANGELES, March 3 — Several weeks ago UPN, a sister network to CBS, announced a new reality series tentatively called “Amish in the City,” in which Amish teenagers would face the shock and temptations of the big city for the first time.

The idea seemed similar to CBS’s plan last year to fashion a reality comedy out of a 1960’s sitcom, calling it “The Real Beverly Hillbillies.” which was to follow the lives of a rural, lower-middle-class family as it moved into a luxurious Beverly Hills house. That plan foundered when rural groups protested that the show was intended to denigrate the rural poor.

“We couldn’t do the `Beverly Hillbillies,’ ” Leslie Moonves, the CBS chairman, who also oversees UPN, told television critics and reporters in January. But the Amish, he joked, “don’t have quite as good a lobbying effort.”

Mr. Moonves may have been mistaken. Within the last few weeks a campaign to stop the show has been started by lawmakers, rural groups, Pennsylvania Dutch tourism officials and representatives of the Amish. The opposition to the Amish show seems even more powerful than the one that has grounded the prospects of a new “Beverly Hillbillies.” Chris Ender, a CBS spokesman, said of the “Hillbillies”: “It’s an idea that’s still being considered, but we haven’t made a production commitment toward the show.”

The Center for Rural Strategies, a nonprofit organization based in Whitesburg, Ky., has helped organize opposition to the Amish show, at the request of groups representing the Amish. Dee Davis, the president of Rural Strategies and a former documentary filmmaker, singled out Viacom, the owner of CBS and UPN. “Once again Viacom has created a reality show where rural people were going to be these curios,” Mr. Davis said. “Viacom’s got plenty of ways to make money without ridiculing rural people.”

Tim Marema, vice president of the group, said: “From our perspective this is a replacement series for `The Real Beverly Hillbillies.’ It’s another way of attacking rural people and employing scorn and ridicule on a group of Americans because of where they’re from, what they look like, what they sound like. What CBS and Viacom are saying about the Amish is they’re rural and therefore they don’t count.”

UPN, in a statement in response to criticisms of the show, denied that the series sought to demean the Amish and said it would depict them with the “utmost respect and decency.” No date has been set for the series. The statement said that since the show “is still in the early development stage, we sincerely hope that any judgment will be reserved until the show is produced.” UPN and CBS officials declined further comment. [full story, subscription required]

And I know that ProfessorEric’s ‘friend’ (not the one who worked on ‘Playing It Straight,’ but another one… we need to give her a name instead of just calling her “friend”) really thought that “The Littlest Groom” on FOX depicted little people in a positive light, but just like The Professor’s “Bad Gay Media” rant, I think portraying marginalized groups of people through stereotype and gimmick is dangerous. In “The Littlest Groom,” folks argued that the little women live in a world of regular-sized women with whom they must compete… well, then the regular-sized women should have been contestants from the very beginning (instead of being thrown in later on as a stupid “twist” gimmick).

As much as I’m happy that Queer Eye has been such a success, one unintended consequence seems to have been that folks think it’s okay to play up stereotypes in these “reality TV” shows, so long as it’s funny or will draw ratings.

Stay tuned for more reality TV, dumb stereotypes, and stupid publicity stunt rants to come… I don’t think professoreric or I are anywhere near done yet…

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4 Responses to “What? The UPN is doing a reality TV show that might be offensive?”

  • UPN just wants to be the next FOX, don’t they?

  • Makes me want to unhook the tv, that is for sure! I HATE reality tv! Even quit watching the soap opera that I have been watching for 20 some odd years. Now I just need keys to the library:)

  • That show sounds frigging stupid, just like every other *reality* program out there. If I never saw another *reality* show, it would be too soon.

  • Don’t know if you have any actual Amish friends, but I have one and he says Amish teenagers are totally wild anyway. It’s like this phase the adults let them go through so they’ll stay down on the farm, so to speak, when they get old enough to marry.
    So I don’t know that the dumb t.v. network isn’t being played by the wiley Amish who are gonna get free fun out of the whole thing, and not do anything they wouldn’t do anyway.
    tee-hee for the Amish!
    But perhaps that was just my friend. The Amish don’t get out a lot and I only know the one…

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