You may not have heard, but the History Channel has hosted a great mini-series recently, lasting six hours in two hour episodes. The series was well received and won several awards. It also featured a couple of major stars in the lead rolls.
Devil Anise Hatfield was played by Producer Kevin Cosner. And as you might expect, he has a favored position in the re-telling of how the 20 year feud after the civil war came about. The mini series also features a crop of younger, on-the-rise actors and actresses who play the offspring as they come to age and get snarled in the ongoing war between two large families. The dispute plays across state lines between Kentucky and West Virginia on either side of the Tug River.
But now, after all the accolades and awards, the History Channel has green lighted a reality show that supposedly pits the current day Hatfields and McCoys against each other. The new story-line suggests that the families are trying to capitalize on the new-found fame and publicity so that they can market a new LEGAL form of corn-whiskey.
Through careful editing, the conflict and competition is punched up and highlighted. Now, if you believe this, you know that the two families will not be cooperating for long.
I'm not sure this is such a good idea. While it did make me tune in for the first episode of "Hatfields & McCoys: White Lightning", I wince cause it seems like a backwoods version of "Swamp People" and "Axe Men" that is working on exploiting a long dead rivalry.
The actual feud came to an end around 1889, and though the family members all recall the details and the slights on both sides of the dispute, it's a chapter of our regional history that is better left buried.
The pervasive cameras shooting from any angle makes this feel quite staged and set-up, like most of the so-called reality shows, but I think there's a line that is being crossed here that should not be.
I'm not suggesting that we here in West Virginia don't deserve our moment in the sun, but the idea that we can or should perpetuate the stereo-types of the past seems just wrong.
But that won't keep the History Channel from showing the series that they have now bankrolled and contracted to air. It will at least air once with weekly repeats, so that they get their bang for the buck. But I'm not convinced that it's doing us any good.
How about you?