Comedian Jeff Foxworthy has made millions by telling one joke with hundreds of punchlines. As in, "You might be a redneck, if ... you think loading the dishwasher means getting your wife drunk."
I've got a new one for him: "You might be a redneck, if ... you and your family have a reality television show." The rise of redneck television has become a raging flood with the recent success of such shows as "Hillbilly Handfishin'," "Bayou Billionaires," "Redneck Island," "Lady Hoggers," "Swamp People," "Duck Dynasty," "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo," "Buckwild," "Swamp Pawn," "My Big Redneck Vacation," "Moonshiners," "Rocket City Rednecks," and "Justified."
This list doesn't even factor in all the huntin' and fishin' and shootin' and ATV and truck shows on the Outdoor Channel and elsewhere.
The networks carrying these epics include formerly respectable outfits such as The Learning Channel, The History Channel, and A&E. What's next? "My Big Gay Swamp Wedding" on Bravo?
There was an earlier surge of redneck chic on television back in the 1960s, when "The Beverly Hillbillies," "The Andy Griffith Show," "Gomer Pyle," Petticoat Junction," "Green Acres," and "Hee Haw" ruled the airwaves. But those shows were mostly sitcoms, and the humor was corny and gentle. The new redneck reality shows are primarily slice-of-redneck-life freak shows. The "stars" are crude, unsophisticated morons, for the most part. The humor, if there is any, is at the expense of the participants.
And, of course, without exception, these shows are set in the South, further reinforcing the rest of the country's perception that most Southerners are ignorant, hog-huntin', hand-fishin', swamp-lovin', fat-ass goobers.
Not one to let a trend pass me by, I've sent a pilot script off to my agent for a show called "Rocky Top Legislatin'," which follows five or six East Tennessee GOP reps around Nashville. Comedy gold.