NBC mines reality in coal country

'High Life' awaiting Peacock greenlight

NBC and producer Ken Mok are taking “The Simple Life” and turning it on its head.

Peacock has teamed up with exec producer Mok (“America’s Next Top Model”) for “The High Life,” giving a pilot commitment to the unscripted half-hour laffer in which a rural family from coal mining country gets a chance to experience the lifestyle of the rich and famous by moving to Beverly Hills.

Mok quietly shot the pilot earlier this spring via his 10 by 10 Entertainment, with Peacock execs now mulling whether to greenlight the project to series.

Premise for “The High Life” has much in common with “The Real Beverly Hillbillies,” a CBS reality project that’s been in development hell for nearly two years (Daily Variety, Aug. 28, 2002). Eye’s would-be skein was greeted with loud protest from several rural politicos — including Sen. Zell Miller (D-Ga.) — and a special interest group claiming to represent Appalachian residents.

NBC and Mok weren’t talking for the record last week, but insiders familiar with the project don’t believe “The High Life” deserves to be controversial.

“The show’s about poking fun at the rich and powerful,” said one insider on the production side of the skein. “It’s about a family that’s totally unpretentious and very close to one another … in a fish out of water (setting).”

For the “High Life” pilot, Mok brought a rural — but not necessarily poor — family to Beverly Hills and housed them in a Trousdale Estates mansion (complete with a major domo) for five days. During their stay, they dined on escargot at L’Orangerie, attended a chamber orchestra concert and dealt with a caterer who specialized in organic foods.

“They meet a lot of these rich, pretentious people who normal America would look at and say, ‘What’s up with them?,’ ” said one person familiar with the project, adding that the rural family will be the heroes of the story — with the 90210ers coming off as the aliens.

“This is not about doing a show about hillbillies and making fun of them,” the insider said. “One look at this show, and whatever concerns people have about it will go away. This is a family America will fall in love with.”

Of course, back when CBS first started planning its real take on “The Beverly Hillbillies,” net was quick to point out that it had no plans to mock rural folks.

Back in 2002, Eye reality topper Ghen Maynard told Daily Variety the skein was not designed to mock the rural family, unlike much scripted entertainment.

“The intent is to be respective,” he said. “We want to find a family that’s different from what most people know but still relatable, a family that loves each other a lot.”