'Beverly Hillbillies' reality series still alive, CBS chairman says

Monday, July 21st 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ CBS Chairman Leslie Moonves said Sunday a reality version of ``The Beverly Hillbillies'' remains a possibility, despite sharp criticism of the idea as a mockery of rural Americans.

``Obviously, there's a lot more controversy involved with the show than I ever imagined there would be, including from many labor unions,'' Moonves told a meeting of the Television Critics Association.

Unions, politicians and others across the South have attacked the proposed series, which would pay an Appalachian family up to $500,000 to live for a year in a Hollywood mansion.

``The Real Beverly Hillbillies'' is a takeoff on the hit sitcom that ran on CBS from 1962-71.

Moonves said he was surprised at some of the criticism, including a February speech by Sen. Zell Miller, D-Georgia, who called the show a bigoted attack on the rural poor.

The speech given shortly before the start of the war on Iraq ``sort of shocked me, considering world events and what I always thought the U.S. Senate was supposed to do,'' Moonves said.

CBS still is considering the show but hasn't made a decision yet, he said.

Attacks on a possible ``Hillbillies'' series have been launched by Southern community leaders and others. In May, West Virginia and Kentucky mine workers protested outside a shareholders' meeting at the Manhattan headquarters of CBS's parent company, Viacom, and met with Viacom chief operating officer Mel Karmazin.

CBS has said there is no concept for the show yet and that the network is not trying to offend anyone.

During the TV critics' question-and-answer session, one reporter noted that CBS tended to stick with controversial projects, such as last season's miniseries about the early years of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler.

While Moonves called it a stretch to compare the ``Hitler: The Rise of Evil'' and ``Beverly Hillbillies'' projects, he defended his network's willingness to take chances.

``If we're not doing something controversial that makes somebody unhappy, we're not doing our job right,'' Moonves said.

Mooves said premature criticism of ``Rise of Evil'' was not borne out and he is proud of the finished work, which drew a best-miniseries Emmy nomination last week.