UPN is coming off one of its best development seasons ever and a $100 million increase in upfront dollars, but reporters at the summer press tour in Century City mostly wanted to know about the network’s upcoming reality show, Amish in the City.
UPN screened the show for reporters on Tuesday afternoon and the TV critic crowd found the program respectful of the five young Amish adults, all from the Midwest, who took part.
“Just because some of the Amish young people only have an eighth grade education, that does not mean that they’re not highly intelligent, and believe me, you’ll see that they are perfectly capable of handling themselves quite beautifully,” said Dawn Ostroff, president of entertainment for UPN. “In no way do you feel that they’re not as qualified in experiencing what they’re experiencing. And that’s why it’s not exploitive.
They’re very intelligent people.”
In the show, produced by New Line Television in association with Stick Figure Productions, five Amish youth move into a Los Angeles house in the Hollywood Hills with six city kids. The city kids teach the Amish how to swim and how to dress, while the Amish teach the city kids about community, religion and respect for each other.
The show has been the center of some controversy, with members of Congress and some station affiliates wanting to see it before it airs on UPN. Rep Joe Pitts, who represents Lancaster, Pa., has been among the most vocal critics, asking for a screening copy, which UPN declined to provide.
“We certainly are not going to have screenings for any member of Congress who may have a problem with it,” said Leslie Moonves, co-president and co-chief operating officer of Viacom. “I don’t want to be judged by a member of Congress before the show even goes on the air.”
But UPN had also not supplied a copy to affiliate WLYH Lancaster at press time, with that station saying it would preempt the show and screen it before deciding whether to run the series.
Amish In the City's premiere will be Wednesday, July 28, at 8 (not Aug. 3, as we had previously reported ).
Viacom is considering adding a sixth night of programming to UPN, Moonves said, but not until next year at the earliest.