Swamp People, History’s fascinating reality series about Cajun alligator hunters in Louisiana’s Atchafalaya Swamp, has been quite the Leviathan in the Thursday night cable ratings recently. For the past two weeks, it’s pulled a solid 4.6 million viewers, yet it doesn’t garner the sort of attention that a soapier, sexier show might. But it should! Seriously, don’t let this show slip bayou. (Sorry — I couldn’t help it.) It’s awesome.
Swamp People is a refreshing departure from the over-produced, glossy fare that dominates much of the reality TV landscape. Instead of showcasing trendy, urban 20-somethings trying, like, SO hard to break into the entertainment biz, Swamp People, as devotees know, features a cast of unpolished gator hunters (like fan-favorites Troy and Jacob Landry, pictured), many of whom are missing a few teeth and speak in over-the-top Cajun accents. They’re hard working men — one woman too! — just trying to get through the hunting season and make some money. Think Deadliest Catch, with an extra bite. (Sorry again!)
But its appeal extends far beyond its crazy cast of characters. Swamp People also incorporates an element of danger that most scripted series would kill for. It was on the History series that I first learned there’s only one way to kill an alligator, and that’s to shoot it in the soft spot between its eyes with a rifle. If you miss, you not only anger the hungry beast, but you run the risk of sending sharp shrapnel from its hard shell in every direction. Watching a swamper wrangle a thrashing, 9-foot gator while his partner attempts to line up a straight shot? That’s must-see TV, my friends.
Yet, Swamp People is as sharp as it is exciting. There’s a business aspect to the show that keeps it from being formulaic — the hunters have an alligator quota to meet, and they’ve only got one month to catch a couple hundred gators. Low water levels, broken engines, bloody injuries, and poachers all threaten to ruin their perfect seasons. (Now, that’s a reality competition show, Mark Burnett!)
Admittedly, I’m a sucker for any of History’s blue collar reality lineup. Ax Men and Ice Road Truckers — that’s my bag. But right now, Swamp People is at the very top of my list.
What do you think, PopWatchers? Are you as obsessed with Swamp People as I am? Are you glad it’s being watched by so many? Sound off in the comments!