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Is Hillbilly Handfishin' the next Honey Boo Boo?

On his recent return from Fort McMurray, Alta., from whence he was pursued by an angry landlord and the even angrier older brother of a young lady named Sue, the Brother was appointed Senior Redneck Correspondent of this column.

It's a good fit. And everybody needs a title, if they can't land a job. As the Brother pointed out, beyond in Ireland the Sister is nearing completion of her PhD and will soon be bossing students around, and it will be all "Doctor this" and "Doctor that" in the environs of a certain university. In the interests of fairness, an appointment as Senior Redneck Correspondent was his due.

Besides, as the TV racket is now awash in celebration of the hillbilly lifestyle, I can't keep up. Every week, it seems, there's another new show about people who go "yee-haw" with alarming regularity, and their creditable lifestyle is being acclaimed.

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It is also true that since I've been made weak at the knees by the news that Shirley Bassey will perform at the Academy Awards, I couldn't possibly undertake research into such unrefined, plebeian types. It would ruin the mood.

The Brother is the man for the job. Being simpatico and all of that. Also, he's willing to do it for a bottle of schnapps. He watches and reports back. I convey the gist if it.

First up is Hillbilly Handfishin', a cult favourite on the Animal Planet channel (Thursdays, 10 p.m.). What is it? As the Brother reports, "Welcome to the wild sport of noodling! Watch thrill-thirsty city slickers head to Oklahoma to submerge themselves in murky waters to catch catfish with their bare hands and feet. It's a trip of a lifetime for fish-out-of-water, adventure-seeking city slickers who want nothing more than to surprise themselves – and maybe gross themselves out – by doing things they'd never thought they'd do. Led by Oklahoma hand-fishermen and self-proclaimed hillbillies Skipper Bivins and Trent Jackson, city folk get a taste of the redneck lifestyle by going through the paces of noodling catfish with no fishing rods and no hooks."

Me: "You're making that up!"

The Brother: "Au contraire, Shirley Bassey fan, what I've just told you is taken directly from the official description of the series. This is an easy job you have here, boyo. It is the absolute truth that this series (which is a little addictive, I must say) involves people standing around in dirty water and tickling fish with their hands. You see, catfish hide in these holes under the water and you reach in and coax them out, if you are skilled in such endeavour."

Me: "Cite me a classic episode, the better to inform the readers of this column."

The Brother: "My personal favourites are Catfish Bites Girl's Butt and Hot Chick Catches Big Fish, the latter having had more views online than the former, which understandable in today's vulgar world."

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I checked and these are actual titles of Hillbilly Handfishin' episodes.

Next is Bayou Billionaires (CMT Canada, Fridays, 9 p.m.). According to the Brother, "In a modern-day rags-to-riches story, Bayou Billionaires tells the story of the Dowdens of Shreveport, Louisiana, a hard-working family of modest means who recently discovered their home sits on the fourth largest deposit of natural gas in the United States. After years of pinching pennies and balancing budgets, the Dowdens are ready to enjoy the finer things in life, sparing no expense."

Me: "Shorter synopsis, please. That sounds like a press release."

The Brother: "We gonna make a lotta money and we gonna spend it."

Me: "Is that a direct quote?"

The Brother: "Yes, sir, I tell no lie. I feel like buyin' me a new truck, if I only had the money, instead of this here bottle of schnapps."

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Me: "Classic episode?"

The Brother: "The one where they try to join the local country club. There's Grandpa Dowden, who is 90 years old and keeps saying, 'I'm 90 and I'm still sexy.' The codger can barely move and he keeps asking the ladies, everyone from the cocktail waitress to the chairwoman of the country club, 'Are you single?' The mama of the family, whose name is Kitten, drawls on entering the Country Club, 'I really likes the archy-text-ure of it.' Your readers will not confuse the Dowdens with Downton Abbey, rest assured. Ha ha ha."

Me: "That's enough!"

The Brother: "But I haven't told you about My Big Redneck Vacation …"

Me: "It can wait. A young lady named Sue called for you."

The Brother: "I plans to make her mah waafe and live on the Bayou."

Me: "Good. You're fired."

Airing tonight

The British Academy Film Awards (E! Canada, 8 p.m.) is for those addicted to awards season but too snooty to admit it. The nominations here are almost identical to the Academy Awards list, but it's all over in one hour. Murdoch Mysteries (CBC, 9 p.m.), meanwhile, is about this: "Murdoch races to stop a madman threatening Toronto with a deadly gas." Kinda like what emanates from city hall these days.

All times ET. Check local listings.

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About the Author
Television critic

John Doyle is The Globe and Mail's television critic. His column appears in the Review section Monday to Thursday and on Saturday. He has been the paper's critic since 2000. More

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