Hey CBS, please don't pick on the hicks. That's the plea of a group of Appalachian activists who voiced their objection to the network's planned reality version of ''The Beverly Hillbillies,'' worried that the show will make fun of poor rural folk. The Whitesburg, Kentucky-based Center for Rural Strategies purchased ads in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Cincinnati Enquirer on Tuesday, threatening to boycott CBS and its advertisers over the program.
CBS announced it was developing the show, tentatively titled ''The Real Beverly Hillbillies,'' back in August. The premise: take a family of real-life Clampetts out of backwoods poverty and plunk them down in a Beverly Hills mansion, and watch them interact with their neighbors. ''Imagine the episode where they have to interview maids,'' CBS reality programming exec Ghen Maynard told Variety at the time.
If that sounds funny, the Rural Strategies folks aren't laughing. Their ad says that if CBS really wanted to show the reality of a rural family's life, it would have to depict things like ''poverty, unemployment, and environmental degradation [that] are painful to talk about, challenging to hear. Others, because of the grit, courage, and faith of rural families and communities, might actually teach a thing or two to privileged entertainment executives who think it droll to 'interview maids.'''
''There's certainly no intent to do a program that embarrasses anyone or perpetuates stereotypes,'' CBS spokesman Chris Ender tells EW.com. Besides, he adds, the family in the show, which has not been cast yet (the network is hoping for a spring or summer air date), may prove as indomitable as the Clampetts. ''In these fish-out-of-water programs, quite often, the rich folk are the ones portrayed as the buffoons. These programs often shed light on the absurdity of urban existence and end up promoting rural values,'' he says. ''The proof is going to have to be in the program we put forth, and I would urge people to reserve judgment until the program airs.''
''I find it hard to believe that you're going to go looking for a poor rural family, put them in rural affluence, and not make sport and mockery out of who they are and the people they represent,'' Tim Marema, the Center's vice president of programs, tells EW.com. ''It is possible to do entertainment programming that addresses the issues of rural America without lampooning and making sport of those issues and the people who face those challenges. We don't expect much, but we expect better than this. Ultimately, we'd like the advertisers to distance themselves from this production.''
Two days after CBS announced ''The Real Beverly Hillbillies,'' Fox announced it was planning the reverse, a real ''Green Acres'' that would strand rich city folk in the sticks. So far, advocates of wealthy urbanites have yet to threaten a boycott.