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If you have noticed your TV smelling a little mildewy lately, or have found tendrils of Spanish moss clogging your TiVo, there is a perfectly good reason – the basic cable producers have discovered the Louisiana swamps; and like the Nazis who invaded Poland, they are not going to settle for just one kielbasa.
Even though there is an old saying that if you’ve seen one alligator, you’ve seen them all, evidently Hollywood TV producers can tell the difference; granted, they are experts at dealing with thick-skinned carnivores after their experiences with the Kardashians, various cold-blooded housewives, and beady-eyed reptilian denizens of the New Jersey tanning booths. (My word processor just suggested that I change “Kardashians” to “Carpathians.” I’m sure the Carpathians will have their own reality show soon, especially if they own a pawn shop, or a small fishing boat, or a tow truck; odds of this happening are better if they have funny accents, and make a habit of aggravating large amphibians.)
Most of these swamp shows, pronounced “swomp” by the participants, feature Americans of Cajun heritage. The Cajuns are descended from French Acadians who migrated from France to Nova Scotia, and later to Louisiana seeking political and religious freedom; and a place where they could play that screechy, squawky music without the neighbors calling the cops or throwing rocks at them.
If you like fingernails on a blackboard, you will love Cajun music.
But mainly, their move South was made after it dawned on the Cajuns that they would probably do a heap better at being brave, legendary alligator hunters if they moved to a place where there actually were some alligators. It had been slim pickings hunting alligators in Nova Scotia. There was a better chance of bagging a Sasquatch. The Louisiana swamps were the ticket.
And so it has come to this: Cajuns hunting alligators on TV have become so popular that other swamp-related shows have quickly gone into production and others are probably in the works. Nowhere is the monkey see, monkey do business model practiced so ardently as on American cable television.
There is a swamp pawn shop, swamp police, swamp repo men, swamp duck hunters and God knows what else is on the way. Is this great nation ready for an alligator gynecologist or a possum whisperer?
No doubt there will soon be a show where participants bid on swamp storage lockers that have unpaid rent. There will be a bonus prize for the winner who doesn’t get bitten by a snake or alligator while rummaging though the abandoned plunder.
The Louisiana swamps have become so popular I’m surprised that Mitt Romney hasn’t opened a tax shelter account in the bayou. Though he very well could have one and we just haven’t heard about it yet. That Romney boy’s got more hiding places for his money than an alligator has bumps on its back.
And it’s obvious that with each succeeding show some of the casts’ Cajun accents get more pronounced. Like the great novelist and poet James Dickey was alleged to get more Southern the more he talked, some of these alligator hunters get more Cajun with each episode.
It’s just a matter of time until they start using sub-titles. I’ve always heard that English is a difficult language for foreigners to learn, and I can believe it. It has to be confusing to realize T-H-A-T spells “dat.”
Fifty years ago, there was a chairman of the FCC named Newton N. Minow. (Seriously, that was his name.) Mr. Minow is remembered mainly for saying that “Television is a vast wasteland.” He didn’t know the half of it – TV is now waterlogged, too. The place primeval. I don’t know whether to spray air freshener in my den or mosquito repellent.
To be perfectly candid, I’ve stopped watching shows that feature snakes and alligators; my nerves can’t take it. They make my skin crawl, like some of those reprehensible Washington slugs that leave slime trails on C-SPAN.
It had gotten so bad that before retiring for the night, I had started checking under the bed for alligators, or congressmen. You can’t be too careful. If you don’t believe me, ask John Edwards.
And if you should happen upon an alligator, by all means, “Choot it!”
- Image: from the History Channel’s “Swamp People” (promotional).