Reality Bites

Reality Bites: Catfishin' Kings

There are a million reality shows on the naked television. We're going to watch them all, one at a time.

If you need concrete proof that America's middle class is disappearing*, you need look no further than basic cable reality programming.

The evidence is pretty clear. On one hand, you have the shows depicting the good life in the stratosphere of the 1/10 of the 1 Percent. Examples include the Real Housewives franchise, Shahs of Sunset, My Super Sweet 16 or House Hunter: Million Dollar Homes. The life of a rich person is, as Jeremiah Mercer might say, a sweet deal: sauntering through cavernous mansions, planning gala luncheons (there's naught wrong with gala luncheons!) or simply drinking around the pool while the landscape crew does their thing. Off camera, of course.

And then you have the other end of the spectrum. Your men who drive ice road trucks and perform dirty jobs. Your teen moms, your "Buckwilders" (RIP "Gandee Candy"). They occupy the ever growing lower-income brackets, and for all the ways the networks try to portray these folks as somehow inferior, one thing's for certain: They can probably fend for themselves better than the Kardashians should the shit hit the fan.

For starters, they can catch fish with their bare hands.

Anyway. Catfishin' Kings. Apparently "hand fishing" for catfish has now become EXTREME FISHING, at least if the sober announcers at Animal Planet are to be believed. Our host is Brady Knowlton, instrumental in getting noodling legalized in Texas back in 2011 (because the Lege certainly had nothing better to worry about that year than whether a bunch of soggy rednecks could yank catfish screaming from their dens...if they could scream).

The quest for the Catfish Cup -- "the most coveted trophy in outdoor sports" (no, really) -- comes down to teams representing eight states. None of these, I should point out, is Oklahoma. How can this be the "World Series of Hand Fishing" without arguably the most famous noodling state in the Union?

Ronald and Greg Murdock are Team Texas; they go up against Team Arkansas in what Knowlton constantly refers to as "the Battle of Texarkana" because military metaphors WOOOO.

The other "battle" is Mississippi vs Alabama. Tiebreakers will presumably be determined by the number of federal agents killed in each state during the 1960s.

The heats (each team has three hours to find the biggest catfish) take place at an undisclosed lake in Texas, which would seem to confer an unfair advantage on the home state, but Knowlton assures us -- in his best constantly flexing Randy Savage style -- the lake they'll be fishing is especially challenging, because it's been stocked with LIVE PIRANHA.

Just kidding. There's a collapsed jetty or something on one end. They should've called it something cool like the Danger Zone.

Rather than do the logical thing and let them bring their best four fish back at once, the competition has them compete in four separate heats lasting three hours each, the better to expose each team to sunstroke and sudden thunderstorms. Dominance is asserted by weight, because that's the American way.

I wonder if this show is big in the gay community, particularly for those fond of "bears." What else could be more titilating than watching a bunch of wet, beefy, shirtless dudes rolling around with each other? And if you're a fish fetishist like Troy McClure, you may very well explode.

The Texas team, using their wily Texas...ness, defeats the trio from Arkansas. Meanwhile, Mississippi overcomes a deficit as seemingly insurmountable as a 10-6 lead going into the final round of the Ryder Cup, yet like the Americans in '99 (and the Euros in '12), bringing a 62-pounder to the table to squeak into the semifinals. For one more week, at least, mankind's continued dominance over the animal kingdom is safe.

*And I just realized which reality shows regularly feature middle-class families: Doomsday Preppers and Extreme Hoarders. Pretty much says it all.

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar