February 25, 2013
VICCO — With a crew from Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report” filming from the audience Monday evening, the Vicco city council gave its blessing for negotiations to continue on a possible reality television series.
Since Jan. 14, when the city became only the fourth in the state to adopt a fairness ordinance prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation, officials in Vicco have been inundated with requests from news media and production companies. City Attorney Eric Ashley said he received several calls from media outlets after the New York Times ran a piece on the ordinance, while other newspapers, including the L.A. Times and USA Today, have also published articles.
“I think in one week’s time I gave 40 interviews,” Ashley said. “It was pretty intense.”
Five production companies have been in contact about the possibility of filming a reality series in Vicco. The leading candidate seems to be the ABC network, Ashley said, adding during Monday’s regular meeting of the city council that ABC is interested in an unscripted series that depicts everyday life in Vicco.
“They’re wanting to do an informative arrangement, where basically it’s unscripted, it doesn’t portray Vicco in any particular way,” Ashley said. “All it does, it has cameras following the mayor, maybe the police chief, city council members, just filming what life is day-to-day in the city of Vicco.”
Initially wary of how the city might be portrayed, Ashley said negotiations have included collaboration rights that would allow city officials partial control as to what pitch the city wants to make to the network.
“We don’t have full control,” Ashley explained, “but we have as much say as they do.”
Nothing has been finalized, he added, but if the show is approved and picked up as a regular series, he thinks there will be a financial benefit for the city.
The city council voted in favor of giving Ashley authority to approve an exclusivity contract with one of the production companies, which he said he won’t do unless he is satisfied that the city will be portrayed fairly.
“The city is going to benefit if we decide to move forward, but we won’t move forward in anything that doesn’t allow us to have collaborative control over the content of the show,” Ashley said. “That’s what we’ve secured so far in the negotiation.”
Monday’s discussion on a potential television series took place as cameras were rolling for “The Colbert Report,” a popular late night show on Comedy Central hosted by satirist Stephen Colbert. The show is now the latest to shine a national spotlight on the tiny town of Vicco, home to just over 300 people. A producer for the show declined to comment on what the show would be airing about the city.
All of the attention afforded to Vicco in the past month due to the city’s fairness ordinance wasn’t entirely expected, noted Mayor Johnny Cummings, who himself is openly gay. He added that he still receives a couple of calls each evening from media outlets.
“Basically I’m lucky to be in a town that’s fine with me because I’m who I am,” he said. “I thought that we would get statewide attention, I just never though that we’d get nationwide attention.”
But ultimately, he said this attention will be a good thing for Vicco as the city works to improve infrastructure, bring a community center to town, and reduce crime. The city council on Monday heard the first reading of an ordinance making it illegal to discharge a firearm within city limits without cause, and another requiring leashes for some pets. Cummings also noted during the meeting that water loss in the city’s system is down to just 1 percent; it was nearly 30 percent when he took office last year.