Tiny Kentucky town with gay ordinance getting reality TV offers

The Associated Press

A southeastern Kentucky town that attracted national attention when it adopted a gay-rights ordinance is getting offers for a reality-based television show.

But city leaders say they are being careful about inviting a reality TV crew to Vicco because of concerns over whether a show would paint the tiny Appalachian town in a positive light.

Johnny Cummings, Vicco’s openly gay mayor who pushed for the anti-discrimination measure, said he and the town’s leaders are open to the idea of a television show coming to Vicco.

“If the city does benefit from it, they’re all for it,” Cummings said.

But “they don’t want another ‘Honey Boo Boo,’” he said, referring to the TLC reality show that has been both wildly popular and widely derided for its depiction of a Georgia family.

City leaders enacted an anti-discrimination ordinance that includes protections for gays on Jan. 14. Gay-rights activists hailed it as a victory and said the city is the smallest in the United States to pass anti-discrimination protections for gays.

Vicco City Attorney Eric Ashley said that talks with TV production companies are in the early stages. The city council met on Monday and gave Ashley the authority to speak with companies that have expressed interest in filming a show. At the same time, Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report” was in town to film a segment, he said.

Cummings said he has fielded phone calls and done media interviews nearly every day since the ordinance passed.

“We’ve had so much press,” Cummings said. “I need to think of something else to say.”

Reality TV has had some success with Kentucky subjects, perhaps most notably with Animal Planet’s “Call of the Wildman,” which follows the antics of Ernie “Turtleman” Brown, a Lebanon man who catches snapping turtles and other wild animals with his bare hands.

An Animal Planet spokesman said that the show is currently producing new episodes that will air in the summer.

Cummings said he spoke with representatives from ABC News about a show.

“I think the ABC people said it would be an unscripted docudrama, which is what, a high-class reality show?” Cummings said.

Ashley said Vicco officials would require some control over what’s depicted on the show.

“We won’t sign anything that doesn’t give us some sort of collaboration,” Ashley said.

Despite his skepticism over reality TV, Cummings said he welcomed the crew from “The Colbert Report” to Vicco earlier this week.

Cummings is a fan of the host, Stephen Colbert, and he said the Vicco segment would lampoon some of the media reports about the tiny town’s gay-rights measure.

“That’s the most fun I’ve had in the last six weeks,” he said.