Moonshiners: Dukes of Hazzard Without All the Pesky Culture

New episodes air Wednesdays on the Discovery Channel

| November 21, 2012
Appalachian Moonshiners hold still for a photo.
Appalachian Moonshiners hold still for a photo.

The Discovery Channel's Moonshiners has returned for a second season, and it's more fun than feedin' frog eyes to a possum--or something like that.

The show begins with a stark warning: Moonshining is an Appalachian way of life and an illegal one. "Do not try any of this at home," the opening concludes. (Damn. Time to put a tarp over the ol' backyard corn still.)

In a recap of season one, we see an old guy named Marvin "Popcorn" Sutton, who looks like a prospector cartoon. He says of himself, "When Popcorn Sutton ever dies, it will never be stopped talking about." Yes, that explains why so much of the recent election was spent arguing about Popcorn's moonshine legacy. We also see his gravestone, featuring the glorious epitaph, "Popcorn said fuck you." It's probably more accurate to say that he said, "Fuck himself," because his 2009 death was self-inflicted.

Like all reality shows, it's easy to question the narrative credibility of Moonshiners. Why aren't they constantly arrested, for instance? But it does feel real. The main moonshiner is Tim Smith, a man who apparently refuses to wear anything but overalls without a shirt underneath. Other people have names like Jim Tom (one person) and Tickle, who proclaims, "If you really love your country, you're gonna have to love moonshine." And why wouldn't you? As Jim Tom makes clear after taking a toothless swig from a pickle jar, "Golly, that's good."

Perhaps the most welcome aspect of the show, aside from the use of Steve Earle's "Copperhead Road," is the convenient presence of subtitles. These aren't Chinese moonshiners--they're from the same lineage as backwoods Virginians who have been making jugs of 180-proof booze for hundreds of years--but comprehending their version of English can be quite a linguistic slog. And it's not just the guys wandering around in the woods carrying loaded guns and sipping dirty hooch: Even the cops, maybe especially the cops, need subtitles.

Surprisingly, though, nearly all of the hillbillies come across as more creative and self-aware than their clothes suggest. It becomes most evident when an old guy named Barney says, "We're just trying to make something to get drunk on. We ain't trying to make a Rembrandt." He's now dead, but, like a bottle of corn whiskey, he was probably a lot of fun while he lasted.

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This is the best "Boise Weekly" review of "Moonshiners" that I -- or anyone I know -- have ever read.

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Posted by Damon Hunzeker on 11/25/2012 at 6:41 AM

I defy anybody to find a better one. Go ahead. Try.

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Posted by Damon Hunzeker on 11/25/2012 at 6:43 AM

Loved it that the kid was shown wearing an East Tennessee State University T shirt, finally my alma mater gets some recognition. Refreshing to see the real deal amidst all the "reality show" fakery.

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Posted by Larry F on 12/02/2012 at 1:05 AM
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