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UPN to Air Amish Reality Series

Associated Press, USA
July 9, 2004 • Friday July 9, 2004

LOS ANGELES – A reality TV series about Amish teenagers exploring the world beyond their community and faith will debut this month despite protests by members of Congress.

“Amish in the City” begins with a special two-hour episode July 28, the UPN network announced Thursday.

The series will offer a “unique look at the Amish journey of discovery” in which young adults leave their spiritually devout, rural communities to sample urban life, UPN said.

The network’s foremost concern was to treat the teenagers “with the highest respect,” UPN entertainment president Dawn Ostroff said in a statement.

When the series was announced earlier this year, 51 Republican lawmakers – some representing districts with Amish communities – deemed it exploitive and called on CBS, which oversees UPN for parent company, Viacom, to shelve the idea.

“The mentality reminds me of the old sideshows in the circus,” Rep. Joe Pitts, R-Pa., said in February. “And it is wrong to do this to a minority group like the Amish.”

According to UPN, the series will chronicle the experiences of five young Amish men and women living in a Hollywood Hills home with six other roommates.

Among the landmarks: A visit to the beach, a resort island and a Hollywood movie premiere. The city roommates include “a fashion-forward party girl, a swim teacher and a club promoter.

Members of the Amish sect, which is concentrated in rural Pennsylvania, Indiana and Ohio, are known for dressing simply and avoiding most technology. But at age 16 they’re allowed to break free of their strict code before deciding whether they want to be baptized as adults.

During the period of “rumspringa,” a Pennsylvania Dutch term that means “running around,” the teens often date, drink, drive cars and move away from home. Most then return to the faith.

CBS hit a similar barrage of criticism for its proposal to make a real-life version of “The Beverly Hillbillies” in which an Appalachian family would spend a year in a mansion.

The series hasn’t come to fruition. An NBC plan for a similar show was dropped.

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