- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 21, 2004

The real ‘Amish’ world

UPN’s next reality show will reach out to that notoriously under-served demographic, the Amish.

The network is putting the finishing touches on a new show following Amish teenagers as they experience modern conveniences for the first time, according to the Associated Press.

The process, part of the religious ritual meant to test their faith, will be captured and broadcast as the tentatively titled “Amish in the City.”

“To have people who don’t have television walk down Rodeo Drive and be freaked out by what they see, I think will be interesting television,” CBS chairman Leslie Moonves, who also oversees UPN, told the AP. “It will not be denigrating to the Amish.”

Of course, this is the same executive who greenlighted “The Reagans,” claiming he thought he was getting “a love story.”

Members of the Amish religious sect dress simply and shun most technology. Rural Pennsylvania and Ohio are home to large Amish communities, where their horse-drawn black buggies appear on country roads.

At age 16, Amish youngsters are allowed to break free of the religion’s strict code of conduct to decide whether they want to be baptized as adults. During the period of “rumspringa,” a Pennsylvania Dutch term that means “running around,” they often date, drink, drive cars and move away from their homes.

The majority return to the faith.

For UPN, the series is vaguely reminiscent of corporate cousin CBS’ ill-fated attempt to make a real-life version of “The Beverly Hillbillies.”

Both networks are owned by Viacom.

CBS hunted for an Appalachian family to live a year in a Hollywood mansion. The family, in turn, would be paid $500,000. However, many politicians and others in the mountain region and the South attacked the idea as a mockery of rural Americans, and the project likely will never be made.

Mr. Moonves acknowledged that he thought of that debacle before approving the Amish series.

The show will be about culture shock, not religion and, said Mr. Moonves, it would be like a reversed version of Fox’s “The Simple Life,” which saw socialites Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie slumming on an Arkansas farm.

“Where were all the people writing about ‘The Simple Life’ “? Mr. Moonves asked the AP. “Didn’t it make fun of the family they were living with? Did it make fun of the two girls? It was fun.”

The Amish series is tentatively scheduled for this summer.

‘CSI’ times three

“CSI” is quickly becoming the “Law & Order” of CBS’ lineup: a hit generator of the first order.

The network is planning yet another spinoff of America’s most-watched television show, “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.” The planned third edition is set in the Big Apple, a CBS spokesman told Reuters News Agency.

“CSI: New York” is slated to premiere this coming fall.

Like the original show, the new “CSI” is being created by Anthony Zuicker, who will assume day-to-day supervision of the forensic drama.

The second spinoff has been anticipated since the first, “CSI: Miami,” starring David Caruso, debuted to stellar ratings in 2002. The biggest mystery has concerned where the third “CSI” would be set.

The first “CSI” series, which premiered in the fall of 2000, is set in Las Vegas and, like its “Miami” companion, follows the work of police crime scene investigators who use high-tech forensics to crack tough cases. It was not immediately clear how closely the show’s third incarnation would follow the original formula.

“CSI” and “CSI:Miami” currently rank as No. 1 and No. 5, respectively, in household ratings among all prime-time shows on TV. The original series averages 26 million viewers per week.

As for “Law & Order,” NBC reportedly is planning a fourth incarnation of that popular show.

Should those plans come to fruition, “CSI” and “Law & Order” together would account for a total of seven hours of first-run programming every week in prime time.

Television routinely beats a novel idea to death. Just recall ABC’s carpet-bombing approach to its hit game show “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” a few years back. That approach brought a swift end to the prime-time series.

The same hasn’t been true of “Law” or “CSI” … at least, not yet.

‘Charmed’ existence

Alyssa Milano and her bewitching co-stars will be back for a seventh season of Aaron Spelling’s “Charmed,” Reuters News Agency reports.

“Charmed,” which has survived several scheduling changes and the replacement of Shannen Doherty with Rose McGowan, serves as the WB’s anchor on Sunday nights. The show averaged 5.3 million viewers in its most recent airing. Miss Milano stars alongside Miss McGowan and Holly Marie Combs as a trio of benevolent witches.

‘Raymond’ still loved

Everybody, meaning all the bean counters at CBS, would love it if Ray Romano keeps his long-running sitcom alive just a bit longer.

CBS Chairman and CEO Leslie Moonves last weekend told the media he’s doing everything he can to lure a reluctant Mr. Romano back for a ninth year of “Everybody Loves Raymond,” Reuters reports.

Mr. Moonves said the negotiations “could go either way” at this point and added the problem was that Mr. Romano and the show’s producer “feel that they have done eight years and done it all. Money is not the issue. They are all very rich and could get even richer. The rest of the cast is dying to come back.”

If “Raymond” leaves, it would be the third major comedy series to exit American TV this year, with “Friends” and “Frasier” — both NBC staples — also signing off after long and profitable runs.

Compiled by Christian Toto from staff and wire reports.

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