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The Heart in Dixie

Jennifer Ducker is a British film and television producer and director. She is perhaps best know as producer/director of 'Come Dine with Me'. Other credits include Britains Best Dish, and Dating in the dark, and at present she is working in the USA as Producer of the highly rating 'Lizard Lick Towing'

Published Sep 4, 2014 by admin

Words by Jennifer Ducker

Jennifer Ducker is a British film and television producer and director. She is perhaps best know as producer/director of ‘Come Dine with Me’. Other credits include Britains Best Dish, and Dating in the dark, and at present she is working in the USA as Producer of the highly rating ‘Lizard Lick Towing’
On Telly, the beautiful deep south of USA has arrived on our shores. A special Southern blend of reality television has made its way onto the screens and into the hearts of us Brits. From Swamp People, Hillbilly Handfishin’, Honey Boo Boo, Duck dynasty and now Lizard Lick Towing, these shows have become daily fare for cable stations from ITV4 to Dave UK which now screens Lizard Lick In the US, redneck reality has been a bona fide cultural phenomenon, and not just in critical
notices and breathless blog pieces. Duck Dynasty at its peak pulled in audience figures in excess of eleven million viewers, Drama stars Don Draper and Walter White could only have dreamed of such numbers but that’s the US of A – what is the appeal to UK audiences in the travails of a family of duck or alligator hunters in the Bayou, or a clan of repo agents from North Carolina? The simple answer is the appeal of the exotic, but perhaps something more is at play, something a good many of our indigenous shows lack, and that is the heart and soul that is alive and thriving in the heart of these southern delicacies. As a British TV Producer who has now transplanted herself in the world of reality TV in America what works here as opposed to the UK is producing watchable TV laced with drama and emotion, and it’s these ingredients that keep audiences hooked season after season.
Take Lizard Lick Towing currently screening daily in the UK on the Dave channel. It is ostensibly a show about a vehicle repossession company based in an eponymous town in rural Carolina and run by Ron and Amy Shirley. He’s a guy with a crazy haircut and a unique turn of phrase, referred to on the show as ‘Ronisim’s’, and She’s an ex world champion power lifter with more beef than a drive through McDonald’s. Together they have run a successful business for over a
 decade. We may tune in for the antics, explosions and redneck rantings of Shirley and Ronnie’s side-kick Bobby, along with their hapless mechanic Krazy Dave and office stalwart Big Juicy, but we stay for the relationships, the family and the warmth. The Lizard Lick crew may have their fair share of disagreements, hurt feelings and even good old fashioned fisticuffs, but rough-house ‘Lizard Lick’ follows the now tried and tested method of drama and levity, for every gun-
toting crazy man refusing to give up his boat, there is a surprise party for a long lost friend.
While Seinfeld may have adhered to the ‘no hugs’ policy, the ‘Lick’, like much redneck reality TV, is all thugs and hugs. There is also Jesus and old time religion of course, but the bible is never thumped loudly enough to offend our more secular sensibilities! As for politics these shows generally shy away from overt political statements, and if recently history is any indicator it’s probably for the best!
One striking difference between redneck reality shows and UK shows of a similar ilk is the distinct lack of snobbery. The producers of these shows are not asking us to sneer and leer at the performers, and we are not being given the chance to ‘feel better’ than them. Perhaps this is indicative of the less intrusive class system in the US, but it’s refreshing none-the-less. Perhaps it says something about the difference in our two cultures or maybe it’s about the distinct culture
of the South, but on a cold, grey winter’s night in Blighty its rather comforting to hear Ron Shirley exclaim the now familiar ‘Like a tight t-shirt – we’ve got your back.’


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