This week, the oddest DVD to appear on release lists is:
“Moonshiners: Season 1”
Reality TV seems to have given in to a lowdown obsession with all things hillbilly (witness a recent succession of show such as “Bayou Billionaires,” “Hillbilly Handfishin’,” “Here Comes Honey Bob Boo,” “Duck Dynasty” and so on). One of the gnarliest and most obviously scripted of these hits the DVD shelves Tuesday with “Moonshiners: Season 1.”
This Discovery Channel show purports to provide a documentary view of Appalachian moonshiners practicing their primitive trade during the height of summer brewing season and the efforts of law enforcement agents (so-called “revenooers”) who try to stop this volatile and highly illegal activity.
Cameras follow modern-day bootleggers as they fire up their backwoods stills and brew their corn whisky (a.k.a. white lightning). It’s a storied activity that they claim is an honored part of their cultural history, and they initiate their young’uns into the scraggly fraternity early on. Several sequences offer detailed descriptions of how stills are built and corn whisky is produced, and grainy profiles are inserted featuring famous moonshiners of the past, such as Marvin “Popcorn” Sutton.
In parallel narratives, the series follows Special Agent Jesse Tate as he dogs the moonshiners – wheedling tips from informants, raiding storage houses, busting distillers and generally playing cat and mouse with the wily moonshiners.
As is the case with most reality TV these days, there’s far too much behind-the-scenes coaching (awkward dialogue abounds) and perfectly placed camera shots to make this show truly believable. Reality it’s not. Docudrama, maybe. But a couple of shots of white lightning could make it go down as smoothly as a rerun of “The Beverly Hillbillies.”
“Moonshiners: Season 1” is rated PG-13 and runs 352 minutes on two discs. It’s being released by Discovery Channel.
- Dennis King