Porter Ridge: stupid reality equals bad TV

Dateline: Fri 16 Aug 2013

I appreciated the Indianapolis Star's David Lindquist getting the word out about the new reality TV show, "Porter Ridge," set in not-so-sweet Owen County. 

Unfortunately, Lindquist's previews were far more entertaining than the show itself, which debuted Monday on Discovery, famed for its Duck Dynasty series (about a Louisiana family that makes and sells duck calls).

Why was "Porter Ridge" a dud? In some regards, it lived up to the promotional hyoe -- Terry Porter lives on Porter Ridge where he runs Country Auto Parts Inc. at 624 W. Porter Ridge in rural Spencer. His claim to fame is that he is shirtless and is surrounded by junk cars and a group of hilljack friends -- Jeff "Bear Man" who resides next door and owns four truffle-hunting bears, or four bears, one of which hunts truffles; Dirty Andy; and Elvis Larry, who sports Elvis-like black hair and sideburns. The "tension" involves rival junk-yard boys over on nearby Killer Dog Ridge.

After you meet the various characters, it's all downhill. Nobody is really that entertaining, and, one gets the impression that the characters are all sort of posing, which may be the case -- the show was suggested to the Duck Dynasty producers by "Bear Man." I think they (characters, producers, etc) were looking for an angle, but there really is not one.

Having lived 8 years in next-door Purnam County, I was hopeful that "Porter Ridge" would show some of the Owen County I know and love. As friend and Owen County farmer Dick Hopper used to say, about Owen, "They're anarchists down here." The county has virtually no zoning ordinances and plenty of squatters -- the sort who take shelter in an old rusted out schoolbus. When we used to drive around down there looking for land, it was not uncommon to see a mobile trailer with a toilet in the front yard, abloom with red geraniums.  

In truth, Owen County is also very poor. According to Indianapolis economist Morton Marcus, it has been among the six poorest counties in per capital personal income for 28 out of 30 years. In 1969, the six wealties counties -- Hamilton< porter, Elkhard, Allen, Bartholomew and Marion -- averaged per capital personal income of $15,614, while the six poorest counties -- Owen, Crawford, Jennings, Switzerland and Jennings -- averaged just $10,294 in 1969.

That made for a difference of more than $5,300 in contrast to our wealthier counties. But by 1998, that difference had climbed to $13,100. So yes, the poor got poorer.

What is memorable about Owen is that the late Lucious Newsome, a pastor who ministered to the poor from his home base of Indy, did much of his rural work in Owen County, especially Cunot. His mission was to deliver food to the poorest of the poor in Indiana, which is why he found a calling in Owen County.

The point is, the guys in "Porter Ridge" do not look like the backwoods folks I've seen in Owen. These guys have jobs, computers, businesses and yes, good teeth.

That's why I'm not convinced they are the real deal or especially representative. In fact, I suspect they are sophisticated enough consumers of social media and cable TV to have recognized a niche market for their quaint ways and turns of speech. This is perhaps a money deal, which is why, maybe it does not smell right. But then, reality TV rarely does.

Hereis what the New York Times said in their review of the show:

"'Porter Ridge,' in contrast (to the popular Duck Dynasty), has the same problem most shows in this genre have: Everyone's trying too hard..,

"Wacky names and deep-woods dialect (subtitles are occasionally used in 'Porter Ridge') are all over reality television, and they’re amusing for about 15 minutes. That’s how long it takes to realize that life in a junkyard universe isn’t all that interesting if the people aren’t interesting themselves."

The other funny ha-ha thing: The Indianapolis Business Journal recently published a special section on our state's efforts to catch up in tourism spending; we are way behind Michigan, Illinois, Ohio and, yes, even Kentucky.

This show is in no way going to encourage folks to visit Indiana. Not because we don't have color, but because the guys on the show, for all their hillbilly affectations, are basically colorless.

Better luck next time. And best wishes to the truly interesting people of Owen County, many of whom are scrappers, literally and figuratively, and who deserve better representation of their lifestyle than "Porter Ridge" depicts.








farm girl [unverified] said:

Right on, Ruth! As you know, we have had a farm within 5 or 6 miles of this Porter Ridge place for more than 50 years; one of the characters on the show once shot a deer on our farm and is the brother-in-law of the best plumber in three counties. There are indeed some crusty characters in the area but they are basically "salt of the earth" types. This show was an insult to them, and to Hoosiers in general.
The only thing missing was dueling banjos...

2013-08-16 22:39:33

farm girl [unverified] said:

And does anyone really believe that Porter guy goes shirtless in an Indiana winter?

2013-08-16 22:44:27

hendy [Member] said:

And no one believes that Indiana is the northern most Southern state.

That said, there are wonderful people everywhere, and the trend to try to make fun of them sells better in the UK than the US.

These are all God's children. Yet some of them live from birth to death in poverty because of cultural and educational misteps. Putting them on TV? Makes some locals richer, but otherwise, just puts a lens on the problem, and not a useful one.

2013-08-17 13:26:24

Henry [unverified] said:

Yokels and their cultures are always dull. Laziness, stupidity, and irresponsibility are the meat and potatoes of TV, however.

2013-08-19 10:06:26

Tony [unverified] said:

Dick hopper.... Ruth go fuck yourself!!!lol

2013-08-20 22:54:00

Bill [unverified] said:

Ruth: Trying to get in touch with
you ... or could you email me and provide a contact? Thanks BB

2013-08-21 10:42:31

farm girl [unverified] said:

Tony, whoever you are, you are totally disgusting. You make those Porter Ridge people look good. LOL does not excuse anything.

2013-08-21 16:22:13

John [unverified] said:

Ruth: How is any of this article credible when you cannot even get the network that Duck Dynasty airs on right? Duck Dynasty is on A&E not Discovery.

2013-08-21 18:55:22

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