God Help Them
Take it from Leroy Beachy, an Amish minister from Millersburg, Ohio: UPN's new
reality series Amish in the City
won't play in Amish country. The series, debuting July 28, aims to depict rumspringa, a time when Amish youth enjoy relative freedom before deciding to stay in the community. On the show, five Amish youth live in a Hollywood Hills, Calif., home with five urban kids—including a party girl, a club promoter and a "handsome swim teacher."
As far as Beachy knows, no Amish from his 'hood are in the series, and UPN is mum on casting. Beachy did hear that producers got themselves invited to a traditional "singing," where Amish kids sing hymns. "I wish they'd show the world that kind of thing," says Beachy, "but I'm sure they won't." Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.), who represents 18,000 Amish in his district, asked to screen episodes before they air, since he worries the series will exploit their religion and violate Amish prohibitions on graven images.
Though UPN insists it doesn't mock Amish kids, Beachy's just resigned: "There's a certain amount of godlessness in the world. If [the producers] can show some of our weak points, I'm sure they'll be happy. I don't appreciate it, but, if they did what I'd appreciate, I'm sure they'd be much poorer." What's next? Hasidic Baywatch?
Fox vs. CNN
The CNN logo is popping up on Fox News, but not in a good way. Long stung by CNN's campaign as "the most trusted name in news," Fox dealt a slap to CNN American Morning
co-host Jack Cafferty. A promo running last week slammed Cafferty for reading Vegas odds on John Edwards' getting picked as John Kerry's running mate, even as news broke that he'd been tapped.
The Fox promo gloats: "If you expect your news on time, you don't know Jack."
CNN counters that, in another promo spot, Fox takes credit for "breaking the news" about Edwards, even though it was NBC that got it on the air first.
A retirement center in Asheboro, N.C., will stage its own version of NBC's Fear Factor
on July 24. The proceeds benefit an Alzheimer's charity. Contestants will extract night crawlers from baking flour with their mouths, race canoes, putt golf balls into bedpans, and eat pizza drizzled with honey and live crickets.
Fear not: The fragile residents of Cross Road Retirement Community aren't participants. Instead, about 12 of its certified nursing assistants (CNAs) will vie for a whopping $100 prize. Most are Fear Factor
fans, says David Schwartz, director of the facility's Alzheimer's Care Center.
Show spokesman Bob Meyer says NBC can't endorse the event because of safety concerns but doesn't object: "We're not like some companies. We're not going to go after a charity."
Cross Road has taken safety precautions, and the event has created a local buzz. And the CNAs? "They want the 100 bucks," says Schwartz, "especially when you consider what a CNA makes." Pitch for new NBC spinoff, Fear Factor: Paid by the Hour.
Take It Off
For years, ESPN's award show—the ESPYs—went up against the opening night of USA's Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. And, in a dog-eat-dog race, ESPN was cowed. In 2001, it bowed out of competition, airing on another night. But ratings continued to dive. Now ESPN is hoping a hat trick of fan-based voting, pumped-up highlight reels and a Sunday run will give the July 18 show bite. Red-carpet interviews and backstage footage will be added in post-production. Says an ESPN rep, "People are as interested in who wins as seeing the athletes out of their uniforms." Just promise to keep the clothes on the Raiders' defensive line.