Much ado about nothing: The real problem with MTV's 'Buckwild'

Update, 2/4/2013 -

Per The Sydney Morning Herald, Buckwild’s break-out star, Shain Gandee, his uncle, and a third unidentified person have died. They were “found in a sport utility vehicle in a ditch...near Sissonville, about 24km outside of Charleston.”


Shooting for the second season of Buckwild has begun, but MTV spokesman Jake Urbanski said on Monday afternoon it has been suspended. He had no further details about whether any episodes featuring Gandee will eventually go to air. Buckwild  debuted in the US to an audience of 2.49 million in January, which was one million more viewers than Jersey Shore's premiere in 2009.”


2013 dawned with the advent of a promising new MTV clique set to insult our airwaves (and intelligence). Buckwild, the once-exclusively-music network’s most recent programming injection follows the bleak existence of nine West Virginian high school graduates who “each have a great love for small-town American life.”

Putting the abject Sissonville on cable’s ever-expanding Irrelevant Landmarks Map, Buckwild presents itself as a hick-sploitative reality drama, dense with every element that crafts prime train-crash TV: schadenfreude, tears and idiotic – albeit loveable – catchphrases. 

Between its mix of rednecks – Shain, who “ain’t got no phone, no Facebook, none of that Internet stuff.”; Joey, who “they call Justin Beaver. I don’t know about the Justin, but you know I know about the beaver.”; Anna, who “just got this new house, but right now we don’t have electricity or running water, so it’s the perfect excuse for us to go out” and six other (poorly cued) cast members – the show which, in the U.S., took over Jersey Shore’s time slot (and ambitiously sought to replicate it’s function) has been torn to shreds by critics for being shocking... ly boring. 

Not ones to want to miss out on the purportedly failing child of Honey Boo Boo, Jackass and the cornfed Hills, TheVine obtained a copy of the series’ first and second episodes and excitedly jumped into the world of hollering “hootenannies” where people seem to genuinely revel in trash collecting and cop-baiting.

With makeshift pools in the back of trucks, the cast’s relentless commitment to “fixin stuff, buildin’ stuff”, drunken – inadvertently racist – girl brawls and a deeply embedded obsession with ‘muddin’, the show proves to be a poorly edited succession of southern stereotypes, with the most interesting moments emerging when the maybe-inbred Shain opens his mouth – “I’ve swam in this power plant water probably 50 times. I’ve only gotten sick maybe twice. You can practically drink this shit”. The show’s burgeoning love triangle created by the group’s token ‘city girl’ Cara is also not the absolute worst thing we’ve ever seen (she turns her friend Anna’s – who likes Cara’s squeeze, Tyler – room into an impromptu smush palace) but it’s not even slightly original either. 

Though MTV’s latest legion of simpletons are not disappointing because they are “not shocking, not interesting, and not quite crazy enough to become part of the zeitgeist” but because they are almost shocking and almost crazy enough to become part of the zeitgeist... just not quite. 


Between mud-embellished romps in the woods, Nek-Minnut-worthy potentially-viral recounts and, let’s face it, an extremely compelling setting, Buckwild is this year’s most frustrating watch because of its failed potential. Incoherently babbling bumpkin fights could have been prime much in the same way the action – if there actually were any – on The Shire could have been. Story arcs are weak at best, and the characters are almost too – and I use this term loosely – dimensional to evolve into Tweet-blasting caricatures. You never lose awareness of the fact that the people on screen are, well, people, and relishing in the inane adventures of strangers is nowhere near as riveting as it was when Snooki burst onto our screens at the end of 2009. 

Clearly no one watching a heavily funded not-real-at-all reality show this late in the game expected Buckwild to be anything beyond enmeshed pre-empted character incest lines and a ridiculous anthology of GTL-esque mantras, but Buckwild dissapointingly falls flat is in its patent lack of branding. MTV has failed to create a new hick archetype or at least one new special persona for pop culture to latch on. And isn't that what we were hoping for? Where were you, scriptwriters and producers?

It’s easy to say Cara sums up the show’s problem well when she says “this is the stupidest thing I’ve ever had to endure”, but perhaps Tyler puts it better when he muses “y’all’s makin’ a big deal out of nothin’.” 

Of course, I could be wrong – the show has been signed on for a second season, and maybe idiotic one-liners and our insatiable craving for “let’s gawk at the freak” entertainment will soon be more aptly satisfied. Until then, there’s plenty other white TV trash to keep us occupied. 

Images via Buckwild/ MTV. 

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