A television program focusing on rural America offers viewers an educational, amusing and sometimes poignant look at life on farms and in small towns across the nation.
“Small Town Big Deal” airs on RFD-TV. Hosts Rodney Miller and Jann Carl, who recently spoke at a meeting of the St. Louis AgriBusiness Club, appear to be having a blast doing the show.
“One of the things people say is, ‘Are you having as much fun as you look like you’re having?’ And we really are,” said Miller, who grew up on a farm near Benton, Ill.
“We’re traveling all over the United States. There are so many great stories. We’re having more fun than we’ve ever had in our lives.”
The concept appealed to Carl, who spent 13 years as a correspondent for the popular syndicated program “Entertainment Tonight.”
The Missouri native and current Los Angeles resident had read about “Small Town” on a trade website and became determined to get involved. She now is the show’s executive producer.
“I researched all the cable networks,” Carl said. “I read the description of this brand-new show called ‘Small Town Big Deal,’ and I said, ‘That’s the show I’ve wanted to do my whole life.’ It’s family friendly. It celebrates agriculture, rural America and the American dream. And it’s full of patriotism.”
While interviewing celebrities on the red carpet at award shows such as the Oscars, Emmys and Grammys was exciting, it ultimately wasn’t fulfilling for Carl, whose father grew up on a farm in Missouri.
“The whole time I was there doing entertainment news, what I really wanted to be was Charles Kuralt,” she said. “I was never the person who wanted to do the hard-news stories. I wanted to do the feature stories.”
Miller came not from a journalism background, but from business. He has served in executive positions with tractor companies Mahindra USA, Montana and McCormick.
Shy as a child, he overcame his fear of the camera while doing commercials for Montana, where he was chief executive officer.
“I really enjoyed doing that,” he said. “I started coming out of my shell. I had this dream to have a television show some day.”
That day came in September 2012, when “Small Town Big Deal” debuted. The show has since become one of RFD-TV’s most popular programs.
Miller and Carl have been negotiating with cable outlets including the Hallmark Channel in an effort to broaden the show’s viewership.
The show has aired dozens of segments, including those on a barn raising in Minnesota, maple syrup production in Vermont and a pumpkin festival in Ohio.
The chemistry shared by Miller and Carl isn’t a put-on. Miller said it was evident from the beginning, when their introductory phone call lasted two hours.
“When we met, we really hit it off,” he said. “Some months we’re on the road 21 or 22 days. When it’s like that, you have to like the person you’re working with because you end up almost living with them. We get along pretty well.”
“Small Town Big Deal” airs at 8:30 p.m. Thursdays Central time on RFD-TV and at 6 p.m. on Family Net.