Copious Notes

How well did Bardstown behave when ABC’s ‘What Would You Do?’ came to town?

ABC News’ John Quinones (left) during the recording of the series “What Would You Do?” at Mammy’s in Bardstown, Kentucky.
ABC News’ John Quinones (left) during the recording of the series “What Would You Do?” at Mammy’s in Bardstown, Kentucky. ABC

Over 10 years, the ABC News series “What Would You Do?” has plopped hundreds of sticky scenarios in the midst of real life to see how real people react.

On a recent episode, an actor playing a New Jersey restaurant manager refused to serve an actor playing a man wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat in support of President Donald Trump. The reactions of real patrons ranged from them walking out of the restaurant to protest the management to a woman telling the man he should just take off his hat. Some customers even offered to place the man’s order for him.

When the scenario was flipped, with the actor playing the customer donning a T-shirt saying impeach the President, reactions varied a bit more — one patron said the customer should be arrested — but things generally played out the same, with some walking out as host John Quinones intercepted them to ask about their reactions.

This Friday night, “What Would You Do?” fixes its gaze on Bardstown, presenting two scenarios at Mammy’s restaurant that are also presented at a restaurant in The Bronx in New York.

With the home of My Old Kentucky Home about to get its close-up, we emailed Quinones some questions, and he promptly replied.

Q. Tell us about the overall concept of the show? What do you aim to accomplish creating these situations and showing how people react?

A. We’re simply trying to shine a light on issues that happen in real life but often occur in the shadows, when no one is watching. With WWYD’s hidden cameras, we bring them into the light.

We don’t pretend to be a scientific study into the country’s morals and ethics. But we do give you a “slice of the pie” — a sampling of how Americans feel toward a multitude of divisive issues. It’s a great reminder that despite all the progress we’ve made in this nation with regard to issues like racism, discrimination against people based on their ethnicity, religion or sexuality — we still have a lot of work to do when it comes to accepting people who are somehow different from us.

Based on the reactions we get, the show is also a great reminder that people are basically good. A “hero” comes to the rescue in virtually every one of our scenarios and it restores our faith in this great country.

ABC News’ John Quinones hosts the series “What Would You Do?” which uses hidden cameras and actors to see how people react when put in provocative situations. Ida Mae Astute ABC

Q. This upcoming episode will present the same scenario(s) in Bardstown, Kentucky and the Bronx, New York? How did you select these locations and what did you want to show by comparing them?

A. Our choice of locations is simply an effort to gauge public reactions in different areas of the country, places we’ve never visited before. We decided to film two scenarios in Kentucky. We filmed the same scenarios in the New York area.

For one scenario we shot a segment involving a gay couple being criticized for adopting a child. We observed reactions in more conservative areas of Kentucky. We also observed reactions in liberal communities in New York. You’ll find out what happens when we air the segment on August 24th!

Q. What were your presumptions about how things played out, and were there surprises?

A. We were very pleasantly surprised, by and large, by how POLITE people are in Kentucky — even when they spoke out against homosexuality (based on their religious beliefs). It’s unlike the reactions we often get in the New York area.

Q. What do you feel like you have discovered about people and places in the process of making this show?

A. What we discovered during our week-long visit to Kentucky, is what we discover of most of the places we stage our scenarios in — that people are generally kind and compassionate. That they WANT to do the right thing. It’s just that sometimes they want for someone else to “sound the alarm” when they witness injustice. That’s why it’s so important that someone — ANY one — speaks up for a fellow human being in pain or in need.

Q. How was your time filming in Kentucky? Did you get to do anything else while you were here?

A. We had a FABULOUS time in Kentucky! The people in your state were SO accommodating. We got a huge dose of Southern hospitality. AND, I even got to zip line over the Red River Gorge! So, tell Kentuckians to be on their best behavior. We might very well be back, soon!


‘Primetime: What Would You Do?’

9 p.m. Friday, ABC (WTVQ-TV Ch. 36, Spectrum Ch. 10)