Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Everyone here in Cocke County, TN has their knickers in a twist about Outsiders Inn, CMT's new reality(which they define loosely as staged and scripted scenes with ad libs and non-actors) spin-off of Gone Country. There has been outrage over how the series portrayed our local people, or rather how it didn't. All of the locals appearing in the series were actors drawn from the pool of talent that populates Pigeon Forge's stage shows--Central Casting for Southern-Stereotypes-R-Us. Which is fine for Pigeon Forge and Dollywood, but misleading when presenting the program as a "reality" show. It's not. It's just bad, bad retroscripting. The trick with retroscripting is that you actually need actors--good ones--to pull it off. Outsider's Inn is sadly lacking in that department and many others.

Everyone in town was excited this June while it was in principal photography out at Christopher Place. But if you've watched the programming on CMT, it shouldn't have been a surprise that the channel that brings us My Big Redneck Wedding, makes its bread and butter from exploiting Southern stereotypes and mocking its fan base should do anything different with Cocke County.

My sister tells this story about how embarrassed she would be when her dates came to pick her up at our grandparent's house. Mutt and Papa loved Hee-Haw. They were also quite deaf so they kept the volume turned up on the TV really loud. Outsiders Inn is going for that Hee Haw vibe. The problem is that it doesn't have the astounding brilliance of the Grand Ole Opry talent behind it. There really isn't any talent to speak of. Hemorrhoids just aren't that funny--particularly on Carnie Wilson.

In short, the show is insulting not just to Cocke Countians, but to Appalachian people, Tennesseans and to Southerners in general. It's also insulting because of the amateurish production values. It's the sort of show that is useless for anyone's resume--the sort of show you grab the money then deny like hell you worked on it. It's a truckstop prostitute of a TV program and no one is going to want to admit they had anything to do with it. But if you insist on viewing the Credit Roll of Shame--it can be found on IMDb.

To make matters worse, Cocke County Mayor, Iliff McMahan Jr., willingly cast in the role of hick mayor, was reported by the National Enquirer to have brought quarts of moonshine as gifts to the cast members. I would have to consume way too much untaxed liquor to blab to the Enquirer. No one, thus far, has admitted to being the Enquirer's source.

Cocke County needs to dust themselves off from this bad experience. It's okay to be outraged but realize the insult was far broader than just Cocke County. CMT needs to stick with the music--or at least revamp its sixty years out-of-date image of what country music entertainment and its fans look like. Last I checked, overalls and checked shirts were not involved.

Back when I was working in the film industry, we had this thing we'd say when a set-up was going overlong or we were losing light.

Let's shoot this puppy before it turns into a dog.

Outsiders Inn was barking in pre-production--why didn't anyone hear it?

More Reviews and Articles:

KnoxNews Review

Johnson: 'Outsiders Inn' out of bounds in Appalachia

Enquirer's mayor and moonshine article attracts attention


  1. Tossing Pebbles in the Stream said...
    Tell us what you really think! :)

    A Reality show should be strong on the "reality". part. Otherwise, a gentle humourous show would be more appropriate.
    Editor @ the "Dew" said...
    At first my mouth hung open when I saw it. By the time Bobby was trying to buy "tater water" I looked at my husband and begged, "Please tell me this is not a real reality show".

    The people look pretty dern fake to me, but like the review says, to a non-Southerner.........

    Again, this takes us back to why I started the Dew a few years ago...
    Rosie said...
    Oh, it's dreadful, Idgie--and this is my county. We are the butt of too many jokes, but it's one thing when our fellow Appalachians poke fun at us, but it's an entirely other thing when it's done on this scale.

    It's just painful to watch--I'm so embarrassed for the production company--a typical Southern reaction.

    Cocke County has the total Appalachian experience with everything you could imagine--it also has a rich literary tradition between Wilma Dykeman and Catherine Marshall, opera singers, actors, stage and screen professionals.

    Unfortunately, these people didn't come here with any interest in doing anything but mocking Southern life and Southerners. It's just so 1970's. And what is so perverse is that they are mocking their own demographic.

    History Channel, Nat'l Geo and Discovery have all come here to use Cocke County's resources and have produced excellent respectful programming. Cocke County is very special because it is a hold-out for Appalachian culture models already extinct in other parts of the range. We should be proud of this--moonshine, fighting chickens and all.

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