Thursday, January 28, 2016

Appalachia gets the 'Mad Max meets Little House on the Prairie' treatment in new TV show

Nearly two million people tuned in this week to watch the premier of WGN America's original series, "Outsiders," described by some as an Appalachian "Mad Max meets Little House on the Prairie" The series, set in a fictional Eastern Kentucky town, centers around a moonshine-making clan that engages "in armed robbery, vandalism and matricide, but it’s because they really just want to be left alone," Mike Hale writes in a review for The New York Times. (WGN America photo)

"The Farrells, like any self-respecting isolated clan, have their own language," Hale writes. "A lostie is essentially anyone who’s not a Farrell and therefore lives in the shallow, sinful world away from their mountain—all the people who 'gone and lost everything that makes life worth living.' Non-Farrells don’t say 'ged-gedyah' when they hoist a jar of 'myrr-lunnen' (moonshine), or bow down before a leader known as the Bren’in."

"Differences are settled by jousts, with all-terrain vehicles replacing horses," Hale writes. "There are violent wedding rituals, talk of prophecies and demons, and bonfire-lighted bacchanals at which public sex is optional. Even when a pragmatic Farrell tries to debunk the clan’s superstitions, he can’t help sounding ridiculous: 'Them old powers be fool-headed talk!' Maybe there really are Kentucky hill clans who act like the staff at Medieval Times, but the best efforts of the actors in 'Outsiders' can’t make the Farrells credible or convince us that there’s any real reason that townspeople, cops and energy executives should be afraid of them. On the other hand, the hillbilly vaudeville gives us something to watch and respond to."

The show is filmed in Pittsburgh and based on a story that show creator Peter Mattei read about a New Jersey family living in isolation, Bill Lynch reports for the Charleston Gazette Mail. Mattei told him, “I read an article about a kind of weird family living apart from others on a mountain in New Jersey, since before the Civil War, and then I saw a play about the idea of eviction.” Mattei said "he envisioned a rough-looking group that was part-gypsy clan, part-hippie commune, part-biker gang."

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