The executive producer of MTV’s Buckwild — the network’s new reality show about southern teens that a West Virginia senator has already described as a “travesty” — defended the program to EW by saying it “celebrates” the youths in a very positive way and that viewers will “watch the show and wish they could be them.”

“It’s not like looking at a train wreck,” says John Stevens of Zoo Productions (Spring Break The Ice, Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader). “That’s not what it is. That’s the part I’m really excited about. There is a certain coolness to it. It’s different than a lot of the stuff that has been produced. I think it’s going to get people talking and it might change people’s perspectives. These kids are totally wild and carefree. It will be very refreshing to the MTV audience.”

On Friday, Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W. Va.) reportedly sent a letter to MTV asking that it “put a stop to the travesty called ‘Buckwild,'” which focuses on nine young adult friends in a small West Virginia town. The network picked up 10 episodes of the show that was shot over the spring and summer. They’ll start airing on Jan. 3. in the Jersey Shore slot.

“As a U.S. Senator, I am repulsed at this business venture, where some Americans are making money off of the poor decisions of our youth,” Manchin wrote. “I cannot imagine that anyone who loves this country would feel proud profiting off of ‘Buckwild.’ Instead of showcasing the beauty of our people and our state, you preyed on young people, coaxed them into displaying shameful behavior — and now you are profiting from it. That is just wrong.” He also told the Washington Post that “this show plays to ugly, inaccurate stereotypes about the people of West Virginia.”

Stevens, who discovered the kids nearly two years ago while shooting another reality project in West Virginia, said Buckwild‘s appeal comes from the fact these teenagers are free from technology and the pull of social media. He’s referring, in particular, to one youth named Shain who works as a trash man, has no cell phone, and shuns TV. (Believe it or not, Shain never saw Jersey Shore.) “It’s quite the opposite of everything else on TV,” Johnson explains. “These kids aren’t hooked into the internet. They don’t do Facebook. Shane doesn’t even have a cell phone. The parents have to go find in the woods when I call to find him. He’s usually out there on his ATV and motorcycle. That’s their idea of fun. That’s what so refreshing,” Johnson continued. “These guys don’t have the crap in daily life that convolutes their lives. They ride motorcycles. They jump in a lake. One kid said, ‘We don’t have a roller coaster,’ so he jumps in a front loader and his friend swings him 20 feet up in the air for thrills.”

For the uninformed, the word “buckwild” is a term of endearment used by the youths to describe having a good ol’ time outdoors.