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TV Picks: 'Porter Ridge,' 'Please Like Me,' 'The '99ers'

August 15, 2013|By Robert Lloyd, Los Angeles Times Television Critic
  • "Dirty" Andy Minnick (left), Terry Porter and Jeff Watson star in the new AMC reality series "Porter Ridge."
"Dirty" Andy Minnick (left), Terry Porter and Jeff Watson star… (Discovery Channel )

"Porter Ridge" (Discovery, Tuesdays); "Duck Dynasty" (A&E, Wednesdays). The hayseed, the Hee, the Haw, the Hooterville -- an old strain of homespun country comedy is alive and exceedingly well on reality television. The very popular "Duck Dynasty," whose fourth season began last week with 11.8 million viewers (making it, according to A&E, "the number one nonfiction series telecast in cable history"), concerns the Robertsons of West Monroe, La., who own and operate a multimillion-dollar duck-call business. The men wear headbands and big beards, marry young and have a lot of kids, but their kitchen counters are topped with marble, and everyone on screen is articulate and self-possessed. As in scripted sitcoms, they have married up; their wives are attractive and sensible. The jokes are old-fashioned ("Women!" basically -- but also "Men!" "Parents!" "Kids!" and "My brother!"), and the episodes all end in amity.

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"Porter Ridge," which debuted last week and makes "Duck Dynasty" look like cinéma vérité, was born when one of its eventual stars, Jeff Watson, here called Jeff the Bear Man (because of his eight pet bears and not, as you might imagine, because he looks like one), emailed "Duck Dynasty" co-creator Scott Gurney to suggest there was something he needed to see tucked away in the hills of central Indiana. (The location is kept fancifully vague: the nearest town is identified as "Nearest Town.") Who then is exploiting whom, well might you ask. The milieu is more down-market than that of "Duck Dynasty," the teeth more in need of fixing, the "acting" (the "realting," let's call it) more obvious; it often has the flavor of an amateur theatrical, with the emphasis on "amateur" -- a stiffness that makes the whole enterprise feel paradoxically more authentic. (And, perversely perhaps, is the thing I like best about it.) The main characters, including Bear Jeff, more-or-less lead Terry Porter, who runs an auto-parts junkyard, and their friends Dirty Andy and Elvis Larry, are again male, but here they are unrelated and mostly unattached, and get up to their hijinks unencumbered. (The lone female in the first episode, being young and attractive and a new employee of Porter's, felt like a ringer.) Doughy and shirtless, restless and talkative, Porter already looks like the bobble head doll that will surely be on sale after a season or two. (Terry to son: "If you never take chances you won't amount to a hill of beans." Son: "I don't want to amount to a hill of beans." Terry: "Exactly.") As on "Duck Dynasty," gentleness is the order of the day, even when the Porter Ridge gang confronts the rival Dog Killer Ridge boys in search of a transmission. After some dickering, they instead return home with a safe, which they dynamite open. "Joke's on them," says one of the Dog Killer Ridgers. "I had the combo to that safe the whole time." Also, it only held an old boombox. Later there will be toasted marshmallows.

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