Every episode of Swamp People (History Channel) starts with a warning. Before you see the title or the ‘tonight on…’ teaser footage you see a black screen as ominous music plays and the following warning fades in:
The way of life depicted in this program dates back 300 years.
Hunting, especially alligator hunting, lies at its core.
Some images may be disturbing.
Viewer discretion is adviced.
It sounds overly dire, but it’s probably not a bad idea to give a little warning about what the viewer should expect.
Swamp People is all about gator hunting in the bayous of Louisianna. You aren’t going to see a lot of blood and guts, but you will see lots of dead gators getting dragged around and lots of action shots of the hunters standing on piles of previous catches while they try to shoot a live one.
It’s definitely an action oriented, testosterone heavy show. The show follows several groups of gator hunters throughout the gator hunting season. The producers do a good job of editing out the tedium of driving around the swamp putting out the bait and waiting for the gators to take it. Most on-camera time is spent showing the hunters reeling in a hooked gator and there are some really beautiful helicopter shots of the swamp.
In most episodes they follow one of the hunter teams home for a end of the day look at family life. It’s a blatant effort to remind the viewers that the hunters are actual people rather than actors playing a part, and it’s mostly unnecessary. Most of the hunter teams are father son duos or very close friends because gator hunting requires a partner you can trust with your life or at least your health.
One of my wife’s favorite parts of the show is the interplay between the father and son teams. Most of them refer to gator hunting as a family tradition and both halves of the team seem to enjoy the process of passing along the gator hunting skills. The fathers are visibly proud of their sons after a particularly hard fought catch and the sons can be seen enjoying their dad’s pride.
The producers keep it moving and they do a fair job of editing the episodes into a storyline with a tenuous unifying theme. The most recent episodes have been about a tropical storm blowing boats around and making the gators dive deep below the hooks or holing up in the lairs for an early hibernation. Past episodes have shaken up the status quo with things like potential poachers or nearly getting the boat stuck due to water level changes while exploring a remote fishing hole. (That episode included some really amazing shots of one of the hunters jumping his boat over a levee. You could literally see the guy’s adrenaline rush afterward.)
Despite the producers best efforts though, the repetitive nature of the show is a definite drawback. Even shots of angry gators fighting the line and gorgeous overhead shots of the bayou get monotonous after too many viewings. I recommend you watch it in small increments rather than a marathon viewing of every episode on the DVR.
While it’s not appointment television, I think Swamp People is a darn good show. It’s a pretty testosterone soaked soaked show but it does seem to have its appeal to the ladies. My wife actually is the one who turned me onto the show. At first it felt a bit exploitive, especially due to the extensive use of subtitles translating the Cajun accents, but I’ve gotten past that aspect. Even if you’re not up to a season’s worth of episodes it’s worth watching a few just to see how they actually go about hunting the gators.
All photos are from the Swamp People Facebook page.