Hmmmmmmmm ... so much to say on this topic. Let's start with the word in my headline that is most likely to be interpreted as a pejorative: "hillbilly." I assure you it is not, at least not on my part. Having spent five years in the South, I cringe when I hear any region of the South and its people being mocked, and it happens with some frequency.
But I used this word for a reason, which I will get to shortly. But first:
Something interesting happened last year in the world of hunting TV. First, the bad news: Steven Rinella's outstanding hunting show, "The Wild Within," did not get picked up for a second season on the Travel Channel.
Thankfully, Rinella didn't disappear: He now has a show called "Meat Eater" on the Sportsman Channel, and it's still outstanding. But I'm disappointed that Rinella and his message about the value of hunting for your own food won't be out there for mainstream audiences anymore.
At the same time that was going on, I heard a rumor that Duck Commander was leaving the Outdoor Channel for ... A&E.
A&E? Seriously? You're going to put ducks getting shot out of the sky on A&E? It didn't make sense, but when I saw Duck Commander was still on the Outdoor Channel last year - unfortunately at hours that didn't work for me - I figured the rumors must've been wrong.
But it turns out they were right. I was searching for a duck recipe on Hank's blog this weekend and there it was in an ad on the search page: Duck Dynasty - a new show on A&E, debuting March 21.
Well, I'll be damned. If you click on that Duck Dynasty link, I think you'll see that this show has the potential to be every bit as entertaining as the hunting show on the Outdoor Channel was, because the Robertsons are just plain interesting and entertaining people.
But the question remained: Why the Duck Commander crew move to A&E even as Rinella was leaving mainstream TV?
I got what might be part of the answer to that question second-hand, from a TV industry insider: "Hillbillies" are in these days.
Ah yes, how could I have forgotten? The History Channel's "Swamp People," a show about Louisiana alligator hunters, has been a monster success.
Who doesn't love alligator hunter Troy Landry? If I walk through a crowd at my university shouting, "Shooooot 'em! Shooooooooooooot 'em!," chances are that everyone around me will know exactly what I'm talking about - and they'll start laughing.
And not necessarily in a negative way. I don't think people love to make fun of Troy and his thick Cajun accent; I think they just love Troy. And thanks to Troy, a television industry already obsessed with reality shows has concluded that thick-accented Southern characters are a golden ticket. Especially if they kill things for a living.
I'm not surprised that America likes a show about killing alligators. Alligators are scary. They can eat us for breakfast.
But is America ready for a show about a family whose business is rooted in killing birds that are widely regarded as cute and harmless? Will the Robertson family charm make it palatable to the masses?
I guess we'll start getting the answer to that on March 21, 10 p.m. (9 p.m. Central). I'll be watching.
Holly A. Heyser is a former politics editor at the Orange County Register and St. Paul Pioneer Press who now teaches journalism at her alma mater, Sacramento State. She went on her first hunt at age 41 and immediately fell in love with the honesty, grace and humility of acquiring food the hard way. Click here to contact her.
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