Tuned In: Amish give 'Real World'-style show a twist
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LOS ANGELES -- With "Amish in the City" premiering at 8 p.m. Wednesday on Pittsburgh's UPN affiliate WNPA, we've definitely gone through the looking glass.
Not only does the concept of the series sound like a "Saturday Night Live" skit -- take five Amish kids and put them in a house with city kids -- it often plays like an "SNL" sketch.
UPN screened the two-hour premiere for critics, and although it's not the abomination some feared, it's just as lame-brained as many reality shows: "The Real World" with Amish kids (none from Western Pennsylvania).
Five Amish kids and six city kids are whisked away to live in a "Real World"-style house in Los Angeles where, inevitably, people stop being polite and start getting "real." Granted, that sometimes means real old-fashioned as Mose, a 24-year-old Amish man, displays his wooden "inventions."
The city kids get to the house first, and they're all wound up when the Amish kids arrive dressed in their Amish garb (at the suggestion of producers), and the greeting is not altogether inviting.
"I honestly thought those were our neighbors who were Mormon coming over for a visit," says space cadet city kid Ariel. She's a vegan who believes cows are from outer space. I kid you not. She also calls eggs "chicken abortions."
"I was pretty surprised at the rude reaction the city kids gave us," said Jonas, 18, from Missouri. Of course, he's never seen a reality show!
"You think you're gonna live in this dope house with cool people, you think you're going to be hooking up, and then Amish people show up," says the totally bummed Meagan, 22, a stylist from L.A.
Through a combination of music and editing, the audience's sympathy is immediately with these innocent, misunderstood Amish kids. But to the show's credit, by the end of the first episode the Amish kids are no longer angels and the city kids are no longer devils. Each group, predictably, circles the wagons to protect its own after Randy, 24, accustomed to having the Amish womenfolk back home pick up after him, leaves dirty dishes all over the place.
In the beginning, the city kids pick on the Amish ("When we make fun of Amish people, we're not making fun of you personally," one city kid explains unhelpfully). When the Amish, who have already been partaking in rumspringa -- a journey of self-discovery outside the Amish world -- change into modern fashions and start using slang, the city kids immediately feel more at ease. Meagan even says Randy has "an awesome body," and we know we're not in Lancaster County anymore.
The Amish kids experience many firsts -- first time on an escalator! first airplane ride! first time at the ocean! first time almost drowning! -- most of them predictable. However, when Ruth, 20, from Ashland, Ohio, tears up upon seeing an art exhibition for the first time, "Amish in the City" becomes briefly affecting. That moment done, one participant slaps another in the face with a sock and we're back to reality shows as usual.
At a press conference following the screening, Ruth and Mose said they did not feel they were being exploited, even by a show that's, as one critic called it, "a super-rumspringa" that takes the Amish much further into the outside world than normal. But Mose said the series will test the bounds of their community's willingness to accept them back should they choose to return.
"If they still take us back after we have been on national television, they will take us back whatever we do," he said.
Eads wants to be back on 'CSI'
At a press conference yesterday for TNT's upcoming movie "Evel Knievel" (8 p.m. July 30), actor George Eads said he's hopeful he'll be back to work on CBS's "CSI" soon. Eads and co-star Jorja Fox were fired last week after they failed to show up for work after demands for a raise and threats of not showing up if they didn't get one, according to CBS honcho Leslie Moonves.
"I think what happened over at 'CSI' is an incredible misunderstanding," Eads said.
No, the dog didn't eat his homework. He overslept.
"It's like I'm the quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys and I slept through the first practice."
Eads said he awoke three hours late and called the "CSI" production office to tell them he was running late. They told him not to bother coming in.
"I've apologized nine ways to Sunday," he said. "It's never been about cash for me. I'll keep saying that until I'm blue in the face."
Eads said he wants to have a face-to-face conversation with Moonves about the matter, but, he said, "It's kind of like trying to get to Charlie from 'Charlie's Angels.' "
CBS had no immediate comment. No word if Fox overslept, too.
I haven't been able to keep up with Pittsburgh's own Scott Long on CBS's "Big Brother 5" (8 tonight) because I've been busy out here working. Thankfully, executive producers Alison Grodner and Arnold Shapiro were able to give me an update at CBS's press tour party Sunday night.
Grodner says the self-described "Pittsburgh player" has been a good character for "Big Brother," "that person you love to hate." He's in an alpha male alliance but also takes bubble baths with other guys on the show.
"They're higher-maintenance than any of the women in the house," Grodner said. "He's a pretty boy, and he doesn't have any problem with that."
Shapiro said there is one expectation that Long hasn't lived up to: He hasn't bedded any of the female house guests. Yet.
"According to him, he can have any girl he wants at any time, and he doesn't even have to buy them dinner," Shapiro said. "That's his quote. So far he hasn't had anyone."
Grodner thinks Long will last a while, thanks to his strategy.
"He's also really good at lying in the house," she said. "He represents himself as an NFL player, which we all know he is not."
Long's CBS bio identified him as a University of Pittsburgh football player, but there was no evidence of that in the Post-Gazette archive.
"I think he was a walk-on," Grodner said. "He's a football-player wannabe."
Also a millionaire wannabe. Shapiro said Long has told the other house guests that he makes $750,000 per year but actually has only $500 in his bank account. Not that Long has a problem with all forms of full disclosure. The Web site www.jokersupdates.com has what it says are pictures of Long posing nude in Playgirl.
First Published July 22, 2004 12:00 am