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What is it about hillbilly reality shows that’s so appealing? On Discovery’s new docuseries Porter Ridge, the men of the junkyard live a kind of Wild West brand of American freedom: They blow things up, live off of the land and use bears to hunt for truffles to sell in town. On the Ridge, they have their own rules but write the Ten Commandments on the wall and swear vengeance on those mongrels over at Dog Killer Ridge. “Respect the Lord, love your family and watch each other’s backs,” they say. Hell yeah?
Porter Ridge is the latest in a string of hillbilly genre series hoping to capitalize on the success of shows like TLC’s Here Comes Honey Boo Boo and A&E’s ratings juggernaut Duck Dynasty. But the setting has moved out of the lucrative swampy South (also home to Discovery’s Swamp Loggers, CMT’s Swamp Pawn and History’s Swamp People), and dropped the faux-outrage of Discovery’s misguided Ohio-based “regular joe” series Blood and Oil. Instead, the show is set in the Hoosier state of Indiana and seems to want little more than to just have fun.
Porter Ridge comes from Gurney Productions, the same company who gave A&E Duck Dynasty. Discovery is hoping this new series will be a similar kind of golden ticket for them. But compared to Porter Ridge, the cast of Duck Dynasty might as well be the Crawleys of Downton Abbey. Still, generally speaking, Porter Ridge showcases the same kind of “nice redneck,” that Duck Dynasty does. It’s a show full of Gomer Pyles when TV would do well to introduce a new Andy Griffith.
There is instead the perpetually shirtless, fast-talking Terry Porter, owner of Country Auto Parts, who is at the core of Porter Ridge. The colorful cast also includes the standout “Jeff the Bear Man,” who keeps brown bears in his backyard as part of the family (a cringe-worthy aspect for those who remember Grizzly Man), as well as blowtorch-whiz Danny Bob, local garbage man “Elvis” Larry, and Porter’s 13-year-old son, Rusty (who has a few things in common with his namesake counterpart on Cartoon Network’s Squidbillies). They all work or are closely affiliated with the junkyard and Porter, and come complete with the beards and camo clothing that viewers expect as part of the genre’s particular brand of Kabuki theater.
Porter Ridge doesn’t really offer anything new — it is just an imitator after all, which is all it aims to be — but it is its own brand of forgettable fun for those who don’t ask for much more (and we really, really should). Ultimately, Rusty is the one who says it best. A disgruntled customer comes to Porter looking for a new car transmission, which Porter promises to procure from the folks over at Dog Killer Ridge. Instead, he bargains for an ancient iron safe over the intended transmission, believing it could be full of gold or other treasure. A producer asks Rusty, who had advised his father to take the car and not the safe, whether Porter made the right decision. “No,” Rusty says before adding, “I think he’s pretty stupid, but in like, a nice way.”
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