The latest news from the TV beat

By Lynette Rice
Updated January 24, 2003 at 05:00 AM EST

Southern Discomfort

CBS’ plan to develop an unscripted show called The Real Beverly Hillbillies — which would relocate a cash-strapped Southern clan to a 90210 mansion — strikes one Kentucky-based advocacy group as a whole lot of cornpone. Dee Davis, president of the nonprofit Center for Rural Strategies, is urging the Eye to rethink its reality show, which he says is offensive to both poor people and the South. The yet-to-be-cast series, which has no airdate, would reportedly follow the family as they experience luxuries for the first time, like shopping in Beverly Hills and hiring domestic help. ”If somebody came to CBS with the idea of taking a family that just immigrated from Mexico, putting them in a mansion just so an audience can laugh at them as they interviewed a maid, I think CBS would find that offensive,” argues Davis, whose center primarily focuses on economic development in rural America. ”All we’re saying to CBS is ‘Wake up and slap water on your face. This is wrong.”’ CBS says Hillbillies is all in good fun. ”It was not our intent to demean anybody,” says CBS president Les Moonves. ”The idea of the show was to question social mores. If you remember the biggest buffoon in Beverly Hillbillies was the rich guy who lived next door, Mr. Drysdale. So it wasn’t our intent to offend anybody. I’m sorry if we did.”

Jack to the Future

Guess who’s knocking on John Ritter’s door? Hint: The 8 Simple Rules star is taking a Tripper down memory lane. In the ABC family-com’s Jan. 28 episode, Paul Hennessy (Ritter) falls asleep while watching television and dreams that he and his family members are spoofing characters from Three’s Company. (Instead of Jack-ing himself up, though, Ritter will do his best Mr. Roper; look for a cameo by Don Knotts as well.) ”Every so often, I’d feel an army of tiny little goose bumps marching up the spine to my neck and back behind my ears,” marvels Ritter about the retro-shoot. ”I’d look at this living room with the yellow rug and the orange stuff, and I’m going ‘This is exactly it.”’ He was equally impressed by his Rules costars, who prepared by boning up on Company episodes. ”The kids took it so seriously,” he notes. ”It was like they were studying for finals.” No word yet if a Hearts Afire dream sequence is next. — Dan Snierson

AND SO ON… NBC and exec producer Monty Hall are returning Let’s Make a Deal to prime time. Access Hollywood’s Billy Bush will emcee a new version of the classic game show; the tentative start date is March 1.