From Texas Tea to Ratings Gold

In the midst of war planning, Georgia Sen. Zell Miller diverted our attention to other things this week.

The conservative Democrat issued a statement denouncing CBS for its plans to create a reality show based on The Beverly Hillbillies.

That show premiered on CBS in 1962 and was universally panned by critics, but loved by audiences. Somewhere in re-run land it is still playing on a cable TV channel.

Sen. Miller says the new show amounts to "bigotry for big bucks" because it will portray Southerners as uneducated buffoons. Miller believes he is an expert on this sort of thing because he is -- in his own words -- "a United States Senator who happens to be a hillbilly."

CBS is searching for a family from the Appalachian region that it would move to a home in Beverly Hills, like the Clampetts did in the fictionalized version. But this time we'd be watching a real hillbilly family adjust to Beverly Hills and the upscale shops along Rodeo Drive.

Sen. Miller believes the show will exploit longstanding stereotypes about Southerners. He said, "They know the only minority left in this country that you can make fun of and hardly anyone will speak up in their defense are hillbillies in particular, and rural people in general."

He might have reminded CBS that when the NAACP objected to Amos 'n' Andy because of racial stereotyping, it managed to get the show off television forever.

Miller has a point about "hillbillies," but CBS isn't about to listen. Ratings gold, you know.

Hey, how about a reality show in which a liberal is dropped into a conservative neighborhood and has to learn how to live on a budget? Nahhh!

But it is nice to know that, in the midst of a possible war and the continuing threat of terrorism, The Beverly Hillbillies can still attract the attention of CBS and a United States Senator.

Old Jed Clampet would hardly know what to make of it.

And that's Column One for this week.

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