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Published: Thursday, 1/17/2013

‘Buckwild' surely isn't wonderful, W. Virginia

BY KIRK BAIRD
CULTURE SHOCK

From MTV, the same network that's given us Snooki, Jwoww, and the other cuddly personalities of Jersey Shore, arrives a soulless new grab for audiences, Buckwild.

Already past the mid-way point of its mercifully short 12-episode run, Buckwild, which airs from 10 to 11 p.m. Thursdays on Buckeye CableSystem channel 39, is another envelope-pushing "reality" series that involves producers and writers concocting a D-level story and script for non-actors paid to play exaggerated versions of themselves.

Set in West Virginia — Southern culture is de rigueur in reality TV at the moment with rural Georgia celebri-child Honey Boo Boo — Buckwild features a mostly white cast of nine college-age men and women who drink, sass each other, hook up, drink some more, perform crazy stunts the show's producers warn the audience not to attempt at home (and certainly not without the network's cameras present), drink even more, hook up again, and then yell at each other.

As with most of reality TV, this entertainment is not meant to educate us about different people and cultures, but to deride them for our amusement.

The concept is hardly new territory for MTV, which pioneered the sex-booze-and-drama reality soap opera with The Real World in summer, 1992, and pushed the format further to record ratings and new levels of waste-of-space excess with Jersey Shore. With the latter series' December retirement from the airwaves after a six-season run, the network is looking to score another "can you believe what they did?" must-see program.

This ain't it.

Buckwild is so contrived, obvious, and offensive, you wonder if some network honcho lost a bet and now has to "pay up" by releasing this to the masses, much like rats passed along the plague to humans in the 1300s.

Buckwild's cast is supposedly just out of high school — given the amount of their boozing, either the 21-and-older national drinking age doesn't apply to parts of West Virginia, MTV doesn't care about the law, or the show is lying about their age.

The women, most of whom are in college yet are fiercely proud of their country roots, include lifelong pals Anna Davis and Ashley Whitt, and Cara Parrish, one of their "newer friends." Among the boys, Shain Gandee and Joey Mulchy represent what MTV must think everyone outside of the state thinks about West Virginians: drunk hillbillies.

Shain, for his part, lives up to the stereotype, complete with subtitles and an un-ironic "This guy needs a beer" T-shirt. He's a garbage man who still lives in Wolfpen Holler, the tight-knit rustic community where he grew up. Joey works at the local spark plug plant and tells the camera that he and Shain are "two of the coolest guys you'll ever meet." Moments later, Shain is crammed into a giant tire and pushed down a sloped hill. That is cool.

Also in the first two half-hour episodes, the gang goes muddin' in a pick-up, they swim in a small lake/pond connected to a power plant, they throw a late-night party just to annoy the neighbors, which gets the girls evicted from their rented home, and they turn a dump truck into a swimming pool.

It's worth noting that the eviction is actually a blessing — as it frequently is in real life — because the girls find the solitude of a home in the middle of nowhere, courtesy of Anna's uncle, to throw worry-free ragers. "Way more room to party, less room for neighbors to complain," she says.

Shain is doubly happy by their move to the boonies. "It's awesome that the girls are out in the country now. I don't even have to drive into the city to get my flirt on," he says in a confessional quote to the camera that couldn't possibly be more scripted and rehearsed.

While Buckwild isn't a new low for television, it's not far from it.

Contact Kirk Baird at kbaird@theblade.com or 419-724-6734.



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