In 1962, CBS introduced viewers to The Beverly Hillbillies' Clampett family, a lovably dim-witted clan who struck it rich and moved to sunny California. The show was critically panned, but it drew a huge audience, inspiring many of fish-out-of-water sitcoms. Fast-forward to today, when cable TV is also brimming with high-rated reality shows about a new generation of fishin', hoggin' and duck huntin' "hillbillies." So, why are TV audiences so fascinated by the South? Let's examine the shows that have led the rise of redneck TV.
Photo by: CBS Archive/Landov
Here Comes Honey Boo Boo
Though Adam Levine might not be a fan, millions of Americans redneckognize the over-the-top, down-home country antics of Alana "Honey Boo Boo" Thompson" and her family as must-see TV. From Mama June's extreme couponing to Alana's beauty pageants, everything on Honey Boo Boo is done in excess — much like the other reigning family of reality TV, the Kardashians. (But at least Honey Boo Boo's capers are done on a budget.)
Photo by: Chris Fraticelli/TLC
We love to watch people living larger than life on TV, but for those of us without millionaire parents, it can be hard to relate to LC and her Hills comrades. Duck Dynasty bridges that gap by following a rags-to-riches family that stays true to its values and lifestyle. The show isn't really about hunting or business; it's about the bearded brotherhood that bonds the Robertson family together. (With 6.5 million viewers tuning in for the show's recent finale, it became A&E's most-watched show ever.)
Add to Watchlist: Duck Dynasty
Photo by: Zach Dilgard/A&E
Hillbilly Hand Fishin'
Animal Planet's reality show sends "thrill-thirsty city slickers" to Oklahoma, where they participate in the sport of noodling (a.k.a. catching catfish with their bare hands) alongside trained professionals to "get a taste of the redneck lifestyle," according to the show's official description. To do so, the urbanites go poking around in catfish holes, sometimes uncovering snakes, beavers, snapping turtles and other wildlife rather than their intended prey.
Photo by: Animal Planet
My Big Fat Redneck Wedding
People will never stop being fascinated by other people's lives — especially their weddings. Combining matrimony and over-the-top personas allows us to glimpse into the way other people — and for many, another culture — spend the most important day of their lives. So while we might not think a pink shotgun is an appropriate present, it's sweet to see a groom know his bride so well that he picks one out the perfect wedding gift for her.
Photo by: Pink Sneakers Entertainment/CMT
Often credited with kick-starting the Louisiana-based reality TV trend, the History Channel series follows the lives of alligator hunters in the state's Atchafalaya River Basin swamp. If you're expecting the same fun-loving, carefree charm of the late Steve Irwin on The Crocodile Hunter, you'd be sadly disappointed, but you might find yourself addicted to the gator hunters' grizzled, not-afraid-to-get-dirty gusto. Fan favorite Mitchell Guist died in May 2012 at 47 of natural causes after falling in his boat.
Add to Watchlist: Swamp People
Photo by: History
Not every Southern-spun reality show taps into blue-collar, redneck stereotypes. This CMT series shows how the other half lives. In a too-good-to-be-true twist, the Dowdens of Shreveport, La., discovered that their home sits on the fourth largest deposit of natural gas in the U.S., which means cha-ching. While you may not agree with everything they do with their money (we would not wear this), there is something utterly endearing about seeing these aw-shucks folks learn the perks of, oh, a couple billion dollars. That is, if you're not cursing yourself for not living on top of gas.
Add to Watchlist: Bayou Billionaires
Photo by: CMT
No, this is not about rednecks seeking help for drug or alcohol abuse. Hosted by Tom Arnold, the CMT series features family and friends who stage interventions to confront a former redneck to snap out of their newfound hot-shot, city-slicker ways. Guys, what are you so worried about? Is "once a redneck, always a redneck" not true?
Add to Watchlist: Redneck Rehab
Photo by: CMT
Lizard Lick Towing
This TruTV series highlights the Lizard Lick Towing & Recovery team, based out of Lizard Lick, N.C. The company is manned by husband-and-wife team Ron and Amy Shirley, as well as Ron's best friend and business partner Bobby. The show follows the trio as they handle towing and repo jobs in the area while offering pithy commentary like, "He looks like Ray Charles in a racecar."
Add to Watchlist: Lizard Lick Towing
Photo by: E.M. Pio Roca/Tru TV
Think of this CMT show as Survivor for rednecks. Hosted by Stone Cold Steve Austin, the series pits a group of Southerners on a stranded island where they must fight for food and immunity. Instead of the Tribal Council, people are voted off with a "beer ballot." Doesn't get more hick than that.
Add to Watchlist: Redneck Island
Photo by: CMT
This reality series on A&E follows the Campbell family as they try to control the ever-growing population of feral hogs in Texas. (Who knew there was such a thing?) The show not only depicts the strange career, but the love between the family as they teach their children to eventually take over the family business.
Add to Watchlist: American Hoggers
Photo by: Zach Dilgard/A&E
American Bible Challenge
They don't call the South the Bible belt for nothing. Jeff Foxworthy, the original (self-proclaimed) pop culture redneck hosts this GSN game show that tests contestants' knowledge of the Bible. On each episode, three teams face off, answering questions about Bible stories, with the winning team receiving $20,000 and advancing to the next round. The overall champion for the entire season wins $100,000, and all winnings are donated to charity. The second season is scheduled to air in 2013.
Photo by: GSN
Rocket City Rednecks
Finally a show that proves you can still be smart and a self-proclaimed redneck. The Nat Geo series stars aerospace engineer Travis Taylor, his three relatives and his best friend as they use their advanced knowledge (two hold Ph.Ds!) to solve real world problems. You know, like how to create a rocket that uses moonshine for fuel.
Add to Watchlist: Rocket City Rednecks
Photo by: Flight 33/NGC
Justified and The Walking Dead
One exciting offshoot of TV's Southern-fried trend? Dramas are becoming more and more willing to take the action out of the big cities and into the country. FX's Justified follows U.S. Deputy Marshal Raylan Givens' exploits in Kentucky, where he interacts with many of his childhood friends in various mountain hollers. Similarly, AMC's monster hit The Walking Dead follows a band of zombie apocalypse survivors running for their lives across rural Georgia. It's the highest-rated show on TV. The South rises again!
Add to Watchlist: Justified
Photo by: Fox, AMC