• The Hollywood Reporter on LinkedIn
  • Follow THR on Pinterest

Prepper Hillbillies: TV Review

Prepper Hillbillies (Destination America) Still - H 2014
Destination America

The Bottom Line

The Southern-sploitation style and doomsday-planning of 'Prepper Hillbillies' is nothing new, and neither is its disconcerting paranoia masked as charm and caricature. 

Airdate

10 p.m. Saturday, April 5 (Destination America)

Producers 

Morningstar Entertainment 

'Prepper Hillbillies' is the latest in a long line of series that celebrate the new American pastime of doomsday prepping, with questionable implications.

From the network that brought you Sheepsquatch (as part of Monsters and Mysteries in America), Prepper Hillbillies is the latest reality entry to the lineup for Discovery's strange little cousin, Destination America. The channel's vision of America is one filled with artery-clogging food (BBQ Pitmasters, Fast Food Mania, Deep Fried Masters), ghosts (Mountain Monsters, Ghost Attack, Ghost Town Gold) and a preternatural obsession with doomsday prepping (like in Armageddon Arsenals, which should not be confused with History's Doomsday Preppers, Hillbilly Preppers, or assorted spinoffs).

STORY: Inside David Letterman's Retirement Announcement Show: 'It's a Madhouse'

It's a dark vision, and one these preppers live by and are indeed preparing for (though maybe not the bypass surgery). Prepper Hillbillies focuses on Moss Group Securities, a Georgia outfit that covers clients "from petty crimes to the end of times." Mixing other doomsday series with the Southern flavor of Duck Dynasty (the elder of the group, Barry, even has a Phil Robertson-esque beard), the series focuses on tech as well as old-school options of how to keep the unwanted out. "We don't want to just keep homes safe from intruders, but also in the case of a total societal collapse," Barry says stoically. 

As of the first episode, there's not a lot of talk about arsenals and weapons stockpiles, but one can piece it together that the warning signals sent back to the main house -- from an electronic trip wire and security cameras planted in the trees -- are not so that the homeowners can come out and offer a tall glass of lemonade to their "visitors."

STORY: Mad Men: TV Review

The perhaps very American focus on property and self-protection are muted though in favor of the "hillbilly" antics of the main trio, who in addition to Barry feature Aaron (who handles the tech) and Fred (essentially the muscle, who coins aphorisms like "proper planning prevents piss poor performance"). Aaron may have the know-how to rig up solar-powered systems, but Barry is the one who knows the old-school art of digging and hiding a ditch to make a car (or person) fall into ("The Sistine Chapel of camouflage," he says).

Beneath the funny turns of phrase, and the interest in the mechanization of the traps themselves, there's a somewhat troubling implication about an "us vs. them" mentality, with the "them" perhaps purposefully undefined. This type of prepping isn't about food or water in case of societal collapse, it's in case of "society" coming to your door. Therefore, it's not about banding together, but about property and self-interest. 

STORY: Game of Thrones: TV Review

Not that security is a frivolous thing, and that more pedestrian aspect of Prepper Hillbillies hums along harmoniously with the Moss Group's charming chatter and depth of knowledge, though this more general nature of the series may not satisfy the doomsday-prepping subculture. And despite the push for a "hillbilly" quality (used here as a more polite form of "redneck"), there's nothing particularly hillbilly about the Moss Group's secure, if occasionally rudimentary riggings. But to paraphrase Aaron, "if Barry knew that, he'd have a baby in his britches, so I'm not gonna tell." 

At the end of the first episode, a grateful homeowner offers the Moss Group some of his moonshine, and Prepper Hillbillies fully establishes itself as one of many series focusing on Southern sensibilities (or perhaps Southern-sploitation). But it's also about life where people with a lot of land, and mounted deer heads to protect, want to be able to get their shotguns ready in case of a thief or zombie... or more likely, a neighbor in need. As other series have explored though, this is not something exclusive to rural areas. In fact, the style and antics of Prepper Hillbillies are nothing new, and neither is its questionable paranoia masked as caricature. On the other hand, the idea (pre-doomsday) of an axil-breaking ditch or a moat to keep neighbors and solicitors at bay can have its charms.