Reality Bites: Party Down South

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

Like Manchester before it, MTV's The Real World has much to answer for. The Patient Zero of reality programming, TRW provided a template that has served fans of poorly scripted melodrama on up through Jersey Shore. CMT, or "Country Music Television," is another Viacom outlet that's finally decided to throw its ten gallon hat into the mix. Party Down South comes from the producers of Jersey Shore, in case the word "party" in the title tricked you into thinking this was going to feature roundtable discussions on regional Marxism.

You know the drill: seven, er, eight strangers are thrown together into a house to see how much mild controversy (and pixelated nudity) they can instigate over the course of a season. The Episode I Watched was the second of the first season, which began with the inhabitants spending the morning reacquainting themselves with each other after getting blind drunk their first night together.

Your PDS players: Walt, a bearded guy from Kentucky; Lauren, a brunette who screams a lot (they all scream a lot); Lyle introduces himself by loudly proclaiming, "I'm a Boudreaux, baby!", which I assume is a skill he learned as a toddler in order to get him returned to the proper mobile home; Mattie, another brunette, enjoys getting her tits out (they all like getting their tits out); Murray is the morbidly obese one, and frankly -- this being a show supposedly representative of the South -- over half the house's residents should probably have a BMI exceeding 30; Taylor, a blond, fulfills the region's "Taylor" quota for television; Ryan is nicknamed "Daddy;" appropriate considering he's going to be bald inside of five years; and finally, Tiffany announces they're going to "show everyone what being in the South is all about."

I assume that means "offer pointedly uninformed commentary on how blacks had it better off during the Jim Crow era."

Ryan turns on the charm right away by introducing the ladies to his fish-based female classification method. Then he recites the NATO alphabet standing on one leg. After they repair to a local eatery, he requests several beers and "a funnel" before doing multiple Jager shots, eating food off the floor and belching loud enough to be heard across the marina.

Ryan is 33 years old.

He passes out before sundown, pretty shocking considering he's consumed "seven shots and 80 beers" (by his count), so the crew goes back out and ends up at a place called "The Big Beaver Bar." How 1970s. Mattie chooses to exercise her Constitutional right to dance on tables, even going so far as to use the "it's a free country" line. The Louisiana native is really making a case for her state's social studies curriculum. Then again, who's to say the Founders didn't include a clause allowing for drunken buffoonery at establishments using hilarious double entendres for names? Be sure to test this theory next time you're at L.A.'s famous Pink Taco.

Lauren gets homesick -- after less than two days -- and calls her mother who, to my everlasting glee, laughs at her. Then everybody gets in the hot tub. Ryan, awake again, has used the line "redneck gumbo" twice at this point, because being hilariously repetitive is a thing drunks do. As the girls enter, Lyle (Boudreaux) does his best Tex Avery wolf impression, ending up in bed with Lauren. And as any of my college girlfriends could tell you, regrettable sexual encounters will take your mind off homesickness for a few minutes, at least.

Taylor, mostly sidelined to this point, demonstrates her depth of Biblical knowledge by telling us they "need Jesus to come and protect all of them" and "drive the douchebag out of Ryan." I'm not up on my New Testament, but this combination Equalizer/Exorcist messiah sounds decidedly bad ass.

Even though it's demonstrably the worst part of any of these shows, the group has to go to work the next morning. Never mind these day jobs are less a means to teach the cast responsibility than a chance for the production crew to restock beer and unclog the toilets. Following their first days' labor (doing jetski stuff at the marina) the group goes out. And after three days, we finally get some drama: Ryan poaches the girl Murray brings home (and blames the girl, because that's what Ryan does). And Mattie -- who already had a telephonic altercation with her boyfriend -- goes to bed with Lyle (Boudreaux), though only to pass out. For now. And Lauren cries herself to sleep. Because Lauren's a bit of a crier. Future episodes promise: mudding, chick fights, and the formation of a violent secessionist militia aimed at the creation of a white supremacist enclave on the south Atlantic coast. Or maybe not.

In all seriousness, I have a hard time blaming the subjects of the show for being idiots (well, except the over-30s: Lyle, Josh, and Ryan). After all, CMT essentially offered to pay them to relive spring break for a month. I'd have totally taken them on that, especially since I spent every one of *my* spring breaks camping with a bunch of similarly broke dudes in the middle of a cold (and often rainy) Sam Houston National Forest.

As for the older guys, I'm the last person to throw stones at someone for not having their shit together by their third decade of life, but if you're old enough to have attended your 10th high school reunion, you should probably stop drinking like you're at a fraternity rush party.

If these programs have shown us anything, it's how idiocy crosses state and income lines. A charitable person might say Viacom, Time Warner, and Comcast all want us to observe the universality of the human condition. A person with a functioning brain stem, on the other hand, would realize that by goading us into ever increasing levels of pointless outrage, all they're doing is diverting our attention from actual issues. Case in point: local residents of Murrells Inlet, where the show was filmed, expressed concerns that the behavior of the cast would misrepresent "real Southerners." This from residents of the state that didn't remove the Confederate flag from its capitol until 2000, 135 years after the end of the Civil War.

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