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In the Crossfire

Sly country boys meet California slicker

(CNN) -- Reports are circulating that CBS is resurrecting "The Beverly Hillbillies" as a reality series. The network will soon begin casting for a weekly half-hour series that will follow the adventures of a rural, lower-middle class family as they are transplanted from their humble digs to a Beverly Hills mansion. Is this smart programming or exploiting an unfair stereotype?

Should Southerners take offense or laugh along?

Ben Jones first gained fame as "Cooter" on the TV show "The Dukes of Hazzard" before becoming a congressman from Georgia. He's now running for a congressional seat in Virginia and joined "Crossfire" hosts James Carville and Tucker Carlson to discuss this twist on reality TV.

CARLSON: Congressman, thanks for joining us. One of the reasons I wholeheartedly support the stereotype of hillbillies, rednecks, Appalachians, Southerners, et cetera, is that it's wholly true. And how do I know this, you ask, I'm from southern California, not from the South. Well, I work with one of your region's finest fruits. I want to put a picture up here. You probably can't see it. But I worked with -- there he is. James Carville. Overall, it's the pitchfork, the corncob pipe. But truly -- isn't it true, Congressman, that basically all the stereotypes are true.

JONES: You know, Tucker, I -- I've spent a lot of time in Appalachia and lived all my life in the South, but I have spent a lot of time in Beverly Hills and southern California. And you want to talk about stereotypes, there are a lot more rubes in L.A. and in Beverly Hills than there are in all of the South. And one of those rubes has come up with this ridiculous idea.

CARLSON: No, but wait a second there. If you took the average Southerner and set him down in a hot tub with a glass of chardonnay and two Playboy bunnies, he'll have no idea what to do, whereas the average person from southern California is perfectly at home.

JONES: I want to point out something to you, Tucker. Tucker, now "The Beverly Hillbillies" was a wonderful show. I loved it. But it was a satire with caricatures -- characters, you know, sort of 19th-century kind of people out there. And it was great fun, but you're talking about reality. And the reality is, up in every one of these hollers, all these kids are on the Internet, and they all got satellite dishes out there, and they're all watching cable. And they're a lot more sophisticated than the people that are putting on this show. And we've great schools like L.S.U.

CARVILLE: Right. And I want to set the record straight, Mr. Carlson. I am not a redneck, I am a coon-ass. And damn proud to be a coon-ass.

JONES: It's good to be a coon-ass. That's right.

CARVILLE: Some of you don't know the difference.

JONES: That's right. I'm -- Now, here's the difference: He's a coon-ass, but I'm a redneck. And that's a good old boy with a little bit of attitude.

CARLSON: How about -- Congressman.

JONES: We're proud of it. I tell you what, hey, wait a minute. Why don't we do a show where Tucker -- Tucker comes and lives up -- you know, down in one of them bayous back in there.

CARVILLE: Let's you and I put a show together. I want you to say that you and I will produce a show where we get one of these producers from Beverly Hills and stick his ass in a coal mine and make him earn an honest living and see how he does after you give him a house full of sagging porch and outdoor appliances. How about like that?

JONES: I'm with you. Yes, yes. One of these hotshot, you know, geniuses at CBS and maybe -- maybe put him down there plowing a mule somewhere, you know, where they really have to make a living.

CARLSON: But Congressman, you're missing the point. Nobody wants to plow mules, apart from Al Gore. I mean, the whole reason that the rest of the country no longer walks behind mules for a living is because it's unpleasant. So what do you think of the region where people do it?

JONES: We'll put him on a John Deere tractor. It doesn't matter. He's going to be lost. Because listen, country boys know how to survive. The -- the rednecks of this country are the people who have plowed the fields, who worked the factories who built the roads and the railroads, who fought the wars, who built this country and built the middle class. And y'all want to make fun of us.

CARLSON: That's fine.

CARVILLE: Wait a second. Wait a second. If that network is so smart, why is the head of it a man called Moonves.

JONES: That's right. And his first name is Leslie!

CARLSON: Wait a second. You're using classic redneck humor.

JONES: Why don't the man have a real name like Billy Bob?

CARLSON: Exactly. Or James Carville. Or Cooter?

JONES: Tucker, Cooter is a good name. Raging Cajun's a good name, you know? We've got good names down South: Skeeter, Bubba, Cooter.

CARVILLE: All right, Tucker.

CARLSON: Yes.

JONES: But you know what? We also have -- You know, I'm sitting here at the University of Tennessee, one of the great universities. What about the University of Virginia, North Carolina, Duke, Georgia Tech?

CARLSON: That's exactly it.

JONES: There's no schools that compare to that. Like Trinity College or -- UCLA.

CARLSON: I agree with you. I agree with you that Duke and UVA are excellent schools, but they're mostly populated by Northerners.

JONES: No, no, no, no.

CARLSON: How many English professors do you think grew up in Alabama?

CARVILLE: I know Ken Warren, English professor at Louisiana State and he was raised in Kentucky. Now how do you like that?

JONES: Now Duke, you might be right about Duke. You might be right about Duke. I went to Carolina. You might be right about Duke. All of the great writers came from the South. William Faulkner, Flannery O'Connor. I mean, Mark Twain.

CARLSON: But Congressman, can you understand a single word William Faulkner ever wrote? No. Come on, nobody can.

JONES: Absolutely. No, no, you can't. You're the one with the problem.

CARLSON: Hold on a minute. Congressman, pronounce the name Peskataquafarqua County or whatever. Nobody can pronounce the name of the county.

JONES: Watch your language. Son, there are ladies watching.

CARVILLE: Now here you go, they should be. Now, I want to come back to something that I think is important, this reality TV. And this is all a lot of fun. What is it, do you think, and you've been around entertainment a long time, seriously. What is it about making people -- here on the Internet, you've got people that you can watch them for 24 hours a day. Are we becoming sort of voyeuristic as a nation, or something, Cooter?

JONES: I'm almost -- well, yes, that's part of it, I think. But another part of it is, is that the real programming, the dramatic programming and the comedy programming, is so weak, so dreadful, that this reality program, just showing real people doing sort of ordinary things is -- gets better ratings. So that's...

CARLSON: But wait a second.

JONES: If one of them succeeds, they'll do 10 more.

CARLSON: You made a lot of money and did a great job playing a character named Cooter who stayed drunk on Billy Beer all day.

JONES: No, no, no, no. Cooter didn't...

CARLSON: You add to the stereotype.

JONES: Pardon me, no. Wait a minute; you're the one that's stereotyping. If you'll notice, Cooter -- Cooter, in fact, like me, was a recovering alcoholic. You missed a lot. You were watching Daisy and not...

CARLSON: Oh, I'm sorry. Then you were just dumb. I thought he was drunk. But I'm just saying, he was the stereotypical, you know, plumber's crack, chest-scratching tooth-missing Southerner, wasn't he?

JONES: No. You were watching another show, Tucker. You were watching "Crossfire" with Bob Novak.

CARLSON: Pretty good.

CARVILLE: That ain't bad. There's a reason for that. But one of the things that I think that "The Beverly Hillbillies" did is that they wrote it very sensibly. And if you watch it, the hillbillies had a very pure, kind of almost innocent thing themselves. And Beverly Hills always came out as looking bad. And the Beverly Hillbillies always came out kind of looking good in the thing.

JONES: That was the great fun of it. I think if you take real people and, if you can find totally unsophisticated people who are less -- who are less sophisticated than the people in Beverly Hills, and that's really hard to find somebody like that. But you've got to find somebody who doesn't have the integrity and character, who would be willing to give up their beautiful home in the mountains to live in the dreadful place of Beverly Hills, where all of that funny business is going on.

CARVILLE: Do you know what the difference is between Beverly Hills and where we come from in the South. In Beverly Hills, the jewelry is real and the people are fake. Where we come from, the jewelry is fake and the people are real.

CARLSON: Wait a second. Ben Jones, we're almost out of time, but honestly, aren't you afraid this series is going to reveal what the region is really like?

JONES: No, no. They haven't managed to scratch -- see, Carville was right. You know, you can still -- you can still poke fun at Southerners because we don't care. We are hip to ourselves. We know what's going on.



 
 
 
 


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