In one of the more out-there reality program announcements made during the Television Critics Assn. winter press tour, UPN on Sunday took the wraps off a project internally dubbed “Amish in the City.”
The project aims to follow five Amish teens as they experience their culture’s traditional rite of Rumspringa, UPN entertainment president Dawn Ostroff said.
The ritual calls for young Amish adults to leave insulated Pennsylvania Dutch communities to explore the outside world and discover whether they want to commit to the Amish way of life.
It was the subject of the 2002 documentary “Devil’s Playground,” and its producers Daniel Laikind and Steven Canton, are on board as executive producers of the series.
UPN also announced plans for a new dating-reality show “The Player,” but that didn’t draw nearly as many questions during UPN’s Sunday morning executive session as the Amish project.
“We are going to do this in a respectful way. It’s something that’s really happening in their life,” Ostroff said when asked if she was concerned about the project exploiting Amish teens with no media savvy.
She stressed the connections and the good reputations that the producers established during the documentary shoot, though she acknowledged that producers have yet to line up their five subjects.
The motivation behind the Amish program is not humiliation, Ostroff said, but is to “see the world through their eyes as they encounter things for the first time and see things and live things that we all take for granted.”
CBS chairman and CEO Leslie Moonves, who oversees UPN, also assured that the program “will not be denigrating in any way.”
But Moonves quickly joked that because CBS ran into so much flack for proposing a real-life edition of “The Beverly Hillbillies,” UPN turned to the Amish because “they don’t have quite as good a lobbying effort.”