Baltimore residents to go 'Hillbilly Handfishin'' on TV

New reality series that debuts Sunday on Animal Planet features local "city slickers"

August 05, 2011|By David Zurawik | The Baltimore Sun

You might not think a reality TV series titled "Hillbilly Handfishin'" would have much to do with Baltimore and East Coast urban living.

But that's not the case. The series that premieres Sunday  at 10 p.m. on Animal Planet will feature at least three couples from the area during its 12-episode run, according to John Jones, post-production supervising producer on the series and resident of Federal Hill.

Here's how Animal Planet describes the series (and you can see a video below):

Welcome to the wild sport of noodling! Watch thrill-thirsty city slickers head to Oklahoma to submerge themselves in murky waters to catch catfish with their bare hands and feet. It's a trip of a lifetime for fish-out-of-water, adventure-seeking city slickers who want nothing more than to surprise themselves -- and maybe gross themselves out -- by doing things they'd never thought they'd do.

Led by Oklahoma hand-fishermen and self-proclaimed hillbillies Skipper Bivins and Trent Jackson, city folk get a taste of the redneck lifestyle by going through the paces of noodling catfish with no fishing rods and no hooks. The only lures are fingers and toes -- which, by the way, can be just as attractive to the snakes, beavers, muskrats and snapping turtles that take over abandoned catfish holes as homes of their own.

The experience might be uncomfortable, completely foreign and downright terrifying, but it promises to alter the lives and positively affect each newly crowned noodler long after the last morsel of deep-fried fish is gone.

As you probably guessed, the Baltimore area residents are the "city slickers."

"We ended up including three pairs of Baltimore City residents in the series - Episodes 7, 10 and 12," Jones said in an email.  "They include a pair of stay at home moms, an Army couple trying to work through issues in their marriage, and 2 Australian friends who live in Federal Hill (one of them is a partner in Bluegrass restaurant on Hanover Street)."

The first Baltimore couple arrives in an episode in late September, according to Jones.

The producer added that there are also "three brothers from Annapolis" and "two very entertaining students from College Park" in the series.

I am sure we will have more on the series as we get closer to the Baltimore-based stories.

I must note a couple of controversial aspects of the show.

First, there is an online protest based on animal cruelty and it involves the fact that the form of "fishin'" shown here is illegal in some states. You can read about that protest here.

This is always an important discussion to have with reality shows involving any kind of wildlife -- the morality of catching, capturing and/or killing any kind of living thing for TV entertainment.

Also, and this might be personal on my part, I have concern about using a term like "hillbilly" that denigrates an entire class of persons in the minds of some.

Having covered media all these years, I get the idea of high-visibility concepts and words aimed at cutting through the clutter and seizing viewer attention.

Still, terms like "hillbilly" can be destructive, especially when amplified to audiences of millions through the megaphone of prime-time television.





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