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What "Swamp People" need to stay on top

By Personal Opinion Ross Landry
On March 7, 2012

Two years ago, the History Channel set a ratings record with a new show that brought light to a lifestyle that most of the country knew little or nothing about—Cajun culture.

Since its introduction in 2010, "Swamp People" has become one of the most popular shows on television, but there are now roughly a dozen other Louisiana-based reality shows on the air.

Among the new Cajun shows are History Channel's "Cajun Pawn Stars," CMT's "Bayou Billionaires" and Discovery Channel's "Ragin' Cajuns."

Since 2010, "Swamp People" has been the most popular of the swamp shows, but with the new slew of similar shows, it is time for the folks at the History Channel to make a few changes if they want to keep the title of "best Cajun show on television."

The following is a list of what I think "Swamp People" need to realize to stay on top.

1. Alligator hunting is cool, but it is not the only thing that Cajuns do.

"Swamp People" is currently in its third season, and so far the show has done a good job in covering alligator hunting in South Louisiana. The problem is that you can only do so much when almost every episode follows the same storyline.

Now don't get me wrong, I will be the first to admit that alligators are just plain awesome. On a scale of one to ‘Chuck Norris fighting Bruce Lee in "Return Of The Dragon,' " pulling in a 1,000-pound lizard into a 16-foot aluminum boat with your bare hands ranks in at a solid 9.5 (the equivalent of Mr. T drop-kicking a great white shark in the nose).

While I still enjoy my fair share of alligator action, it is not the only great thing about Cajun culture. There are still plenty of areas of the culture that have yet to be portrayed on television.

Between crawfishing, crabbing, frogging, fishing, hunting and the festivals and parties, Louisiana is one of the most exciting places to live in the world. Although the show has touched on a few of these categories before, it almost always goes back to the alligator hunting before the hour is over.

So far, my favorite episode of "Swamp People" was the Thanksgiving special—an episode that had almost nothing to do with alligators. To me, the scenes where the hunters spend time with their families are the ones that capture the Cajun culture perfectly.

2. Enough with the forced gimmicks.

It seems like with each new season of "Swamp People" comes one more added thing that increases the doubt of its "realness" to viewers. Season one was definitely the rawest of the three, covering mainly the hunting by itself.

Since it was the first time alligator hunting was shown on television, just the idea of catching the huge beasts was enough to "wow" viewers.

Although it was already hard to believe that it was possible to hunt and catch gators the way that the "Swamp People" do, anyone from around the area who has ever seen it done in person could defend the show's legitimacy in a heartbeat.

Now in its third season, the show has so many added gimmicks in it that I find myself saying, "Really? What are the odds of that happening?"

It's one thing to catch an alligator in open water by throwing a hook attached to a rope, but when you hire a former military sharpshooter to snipe alligators from a tree, things can get a little ridiculous.

3. Leave it to the professionals.

Sure, I know I just finished ranting about how the show needs something new, but I also believe that some things need to stay the same, the characters being the prime example.

In seasons one and two, the characters were all a little different, but they all had one thing in common—the ability to catch alligators. Characters like Troy Landry, Junior Edwards, Bruce Mitchell and Joe LaFont have been hunting alligators their entire lives, making them professionals.

This season, several new characters have been added to the show, some of which have never hunted alligators before. While I understand what the producers are trying to do, constantly bringing in new "greenhorns" that have no clue what is going on puts a lot of people in danger.

Alligator hunting may be the "new thing," but it is definitely not for everyone.

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