Monday, September 2, 2002
CBS is bringing back "The Beverly Hillbillies." This time, however, the family members we laugh at won't be played by Hollywood actors; they'll be real live rubes from the South.
After spending decades trying to shed the Bubba image it contracted in the 1960s when its prime-time lineup included a slew of backcountry characters, CBS has decided to embrace once again its biggest hick hit of all. The network already has a crew of casting agents combing "mountainous, rural areas" in Arkansas, West Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee and Kentucky in search of a "multi-generational family of five or more ï¿½ parents, children and grandparents ï¿½ who will be relocated for at least a year" to a mansion in Beverly Hills, said CBS spokesman Chris Ender.
"That is not to say if we discover the perfect family from another area of the country we wouldn't consider them," he added. "We're looking for a family from a very rural area that hasn't been exposed to big-city life or luxuries of life in any way."
The family will be given money ï¿½ exactly how much hasn't been determined ï¿½ with which to buy expensive cars and designer suits, hire maids and personal assistants, and dine at hot West L.A. eateries.
"The Beverly Hillbillies" starred well-known character actor Buddy Ebsen as Jed Clampett, patriarch of an Ozark family that struck it rich when oil began bubbling up on their property.
So he loaded up the truck and they moved to Beverly.
Hills, that is. Swimmin' pools. Movie stars!
"The Beverly Hillbillies" had four immediate family members. Besides slow-talking, sensible Jed, there were dumb, buxom, critter-luvin' Elly May; cousin Jethro, who was also stupid but a real hunk; and Daisy Mae Moses, aka Granny, whose mission in life was finding Elly May a husband.
When the sitcom debuted in 1962, it was an immediate hit ï¿½ the most watched program on TV its first two seasons, attracting as many as 60 million viewers each week.
Of the new "Beverly Hillbillies," Ender said, "We believe this will hit a sweet spot of young adults with its reality base," young viewers being the audience advertisers most want to reach.
"The Real Beverly Hillbillies" would be the latest incarnation in a reality craze that seized the TV industry in the late '90s with the success of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" and "Survivor."
Dub Cornett, who's among those developing the "Beverly Hillbillies" reality remake and whose credits include documentaries about moonshine and hillbilly dancing, insists America will end up laughing at Beverly Hills, not his Clampett family.
"If you look at the real 'Beverly Hillbillies,' Jed was the one guy you had any respect for, not the banker.
"We will accomplish the most if we cast it well with people who respect themselves but see the humor in themselves. We will end up with a piece that truly has, God forbid, social commentary, and maybe will enlighten, that it's not all barefoot hillbillies," he said.
"Most of America can only imagine what it's like to live in Beverly Hills and live in a multimillion-dollar mansion. We can share this advantage with them, rather than laugh at them." On the other hand, he said, "If somebody is a stereotypical swing-from-the-trees hillbilly who shoots the lights out and parks cars in the front yard ï¿½ hey, it happens. I live near that."
CBS has not decided what to do with its new Clampetts once the network is through with them.