MIAMI — “Small Town Big Deal” is a love letter to America, according to co-host Jann Carl.
“There’s a lot to love,” she said Thursday morning during a stop at the Coleman Theatre to tape a segment for a future episode.
“We’re not saying there are things that need to be improved and changed as the country as a whole, but there are a lot of good things out there that are feeding our hopes.”
Carl spent 14 years as a correspondent and weekend anchor for “Entertainment Tonight.”
The stop in Miami, which also included segments from Waylan’s Ku-Ku and the Route 66 “ribbon road” south of town, will be part of multiple episodes of the series.
“We’ve never done this before,” show creator Rodney Miller said. “We shot one episode, which was Illinois which has already aired.”
At the time of it’s airing — its flagship station is RFD-TV— it drew the largest number of viewers in series history, Miller said.
“We had already decided to shoot more,” he said, noting that they have enough material for five or six episodes.
Before rolling into Oklahoma, the production team shot video in Missouri and Kansas.
They plan on venturing all the way to the western point of Route 66 in Santa Monica, California.
“When you look at the issues of the day and things that we need to work on and improve on, we also thought that if you forget to remember the good things, then you kinda forget,” said Carl, who was born in Carthage, Missouri.
A lifelong farmer, Miller left a position as CEO of McCormick-International to launch the show in 2012.
“I had never been on TV, but had this dream, a vision, to start a show about the real America,” he said. “We highlight that. We show the positive and the good about America. A lot of the shows, when they refer to middle America, it’s always in a negative connotation, which is so untrue. We’re trying to break that stereotype.”
The series is from the mold of the popular “On the Road” segments the late Charles Kuralt did on CBS News — with a twist.
“It’s a lot like that with the exception that we try to be a little more entertaining,” Miller said. “We try to find all of these hidden gems across America. We travel all over just like he did — we’ve been in 44 states so far.
Carl said she always had wanted to emulate Kuralt.
“When I graduated from journalism school, everything was hard news and investigative journalism,” she said. “I did hard news for a while, then ‘Entertainment Tonight.’ My heart was really always wanting to tell the extraordinary stories of ordinary people; to tell the stories of the hidden gems of America.”
Carl, who had interviewed Oprah Winfrey, Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt (a Shawnee native) during her tenure at “ET,” jumped at a chance to join Miller on “Small Town Big Deal” at the outset.
“When I found out the show was premiering, I jumped at the chance to reach out with an email thinking ‘Oh my gosh. This was the show I wanted to do all my life!’ I will be a PA (production assistant). I will be a peon. I will do anything to be a part of it.
“Even though a lot of people still associate me with ‘Entertainment Tonight’ and the red carpet, this is really where my heart is.”
She said she thought Miller was a little skeptical when she first reached out.
“I maybe was, but I think our crew was more skeptical than I was,” Miller said. “It worked right off the bat. We’ve been filming together for almost eight years (shooting 135 episodes).”
The ninth season of “Small Town Big Deal” premiers in September, “which is an eternity in TV,” Miller said. “We just keep growing. We keep adding stations (the current count is 265) across American, including big-time stations like ABC in New York, Chicago, Philly and Atlanta. We’ve been fortunate.”
No airdate on the segment featuring Miami has been set.
“Small Town Big Deal” airs at 8:30 p.m. Thursday and again at 12:30 a.m. Fridays on RFD-TV (Dish Network Ch. 231 and DirecTV Ch. 345.
The show also has a YouTube channel and airs on the Armed Forces Network.