Pity the producers of new reality TV shows. With audiences growing more jaded by the subgenre that centers on the American workplace -- in which we've already tagged along with some of TV's most colorful personalities -- any new show about a job had better come loaded with an impressive mix of charisma, conflict and setting.
With their new Discovery offering, Swamp Brothers, executive producers Andreas Gutzeit (Body of Evidence) and Shura Davison (Parking Wars) are betting that two brothers who become partners at "the largest venomous snake farm in the world" will deliver that elusive hook.
Robbie Keszey, proprietor of Glades Herp Farm, is a tattoo-covered former assistant to the '90s hair band Poison (see: Rock of Love) who ditched the Sunset Strip to try his hand at running an exotic- animal sanctuary in the swampy environs near Orlando. His brother, Stephen, has reluctantly given up a life as a Manhattan bartender to help run the business, squirm at the sight of its creatures and deliver the show's laugh lines.
"We're brothers, but we are polar opposites," Stephen says. "Robbie is as happy as a clam wrestling gators. My happy place is on the Upper West Side drinking a boilermaker."
With the introductions out of the way, the cameras follow the brothers about their day in the swamp. In the first vignette, Robbie interrupts Stephen as he's sending a text to inform him that he needs his help in distracting a mother alligator so he can steal the eggs in her nest for resale.
"My legs are shaking," Stephen cries as the angry mama approaches with her jaw agape. "I'm shaking!" And as though we've suddenly been transported to the jungles of Africa, a soundtrack of tribal drums ratchets up the tension, and Stephen's hysterics feel almost genuine.
Robbie's love of nature is apparent, but he's no Steve Irwin. We don't really learn that much about the swamp fauna, nor do we get that close to the brothers, and that's a shame.
In a way, you yearn to see Robbie return to the excesses of L.A. and for Stephen to step back behind the bar in New York, settings that might have produced a more natural reality show or two. Here in the Florida swamp, their lives feel a tad forced.
Airdate 10 p.m. Friday, May 13 (Discovery)