Film and TV

Reality Bites: Hollywood Hillbillies

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

Imitation is both the sincerest form of flattery and one of the easiest ways to make a quick buck. So with the runaway success of Duck Dynasty (and lesser notoriety of Here Comes Honey Boo Boo), it should come as zero surprise other networks have recovered the gauntlets thrown down by A&E and TLC from their tubs of country gravy and are grabbing for that sweet, pork-rind-stained, redneck dollar.

One of the first out of gate is Reelz, a cable channel you may or may not be aware you're subscribed to (I wasn't), with Hollywood Hillbillies, a "fish out of water" experiment that operates under the assumption southern California is still as whitebread and cloistered as it was in the Jed Clampett era.

It's a new millennium, which brings with it new hillbilly requirements. Instead of "Texas tea," 20-year old Michael Kitrell struck it rich on YouTube with his "Angry Ginger" rants. I know, I was as surprised as anyone to see someone making money off YouTube, much less enough to move to Santa Monica with his extended family and "further his career."

Not really sure what the market in Tinseltown is for a balding red-headed kid with moobs. Maybe he can play Pearl in the Blade remake.

However, the central character of the show is Michael's grandmother, "Mema." She's the one that gets to run her mouth the most in a naked attempt to capitalize on the deranged philosophizing of DD's Uncle Si. She likes to cuss, and this being pay cable she's allowed to do so with impunity. Thought the profane elderly person went out of style in the '90s? Joke's on you, nerds.

In the Episode I Watched (which may have been the series debut; I'm not looking it up), Mema wonders if "Hollywood is ready for us hillbillies." Considering how inexplicably enamored America remains of the common clay, this would qualify as one of the dumbest things said on any other show. Not here, however.

But more on that in a second, for we don't want to neglect the rest of Kitrell's clan. There's John, Mema's son, who doesn't appear to be Michael's father (or at least doesn't admit it). Aunt Dee Dee is another of Mema' kids, and is both apparently obsessed with pastries (I'm not making a fat joke; she spends the entire episode asking where they can find a goddamn "cronut") and has discovered innovative uses for her ample bosom. To wit, draping them over boyfriend Paul's head to protect him from the sun.

Paul says the least of anybody on the show. I have therefore concluded he is the smartest person there.

The staging is pretty painful. In order for Michael to make it to an audition, the family sets out on foot looking for a bus stop, because buses will take you to whatever destination you wish, like a taxi on steroids. They eventually arrive at the office of Michael's agent, David Weintraub, who drops Dee Dee et al off at a car dealership so they can overcome their terrible SoCal handicap, then drives Michael and Mema to -- wait for it -- a ginger ale commercial audition.

Reelz may have overplayed the "Hilarious Old Person Who Says Outrageous Things" card here, however, for while Mema is merely obnoxious at Michael's tryout (needling his competition then butting in on the audition itself), her comments about Weintraub and Jews in general are mind boggling: "Bless his little Jewish heart," or "You never see a Jew doing manual labor," among others. Phil Robertson gets suspended by A&E for quoting ambiguously anti-gay Bible verses, but when this grotesque woman talks about Ze Jews, it's supposed to be hilarious?

I suspect this won't blow up in anybody's face, since the show is such a blatant ripoff of its predecessors (right down to the merchandising promos and closing out with them saying grace over their fucking cronuts) it's hard to believe many people will watch.

I've been wrong before, however.