After protests stopped a CBS hillbilly reality show, NBC quietly proceeds with one

By Stephen M. Silverman
Updated May 06, 2004 09:00 AM

After protests shot down CBS’s attempt to launch a reality series based on the premise of The Beverly Hillbillies, about rural hicks who strike it rich, NBC has quietly moved forward with a very similar type of program.

Tentatively titled The High Life – and not to be confused with the proposed The Good Life, starring Paris Hilton’s mother Kathy as she instructs women into becoming socialites – the premise of this show is to follow a family that’s transported from backwoods Appalachia to the good life in Beverly Hills, the Associated Press reports.

NBC spokeswoman Kathy Kelly-Brown confirms that the show is under consideration and a pilot has already been filmed. Few other details were provided.

“It seems like it’s been somewhat of a stealth operation, keeping it quiet and springing it on us all at once so folks in the region don’t have time to organize against it,” said a stunned Ewell Balltrip, a former director of the Kentucky Appalachian Commission.

His group, one of many (including those in the government) that voiced concern and outrage, was credited with pressuring CBS to ditch its Hillbillies idea.

“Programs of this type do nothing other than perpetuate negative stereotypes of residents of Appalachia and the rural South,” Balltrip said. “Some folks may see it as entertainment, but for those of us who live in the region, it’s not entertainment.”

Chiming in with his opposition is Jim Webb, program director at the WMMT-FM, a Whitesburg radio station that bills itself as “The Voice of the Hillbilly Nation.” Said Webb of NBC’s move: “They did this while CBS took all the flak. The majority of the people I know are just irate.”