Fox kicked off its new Big Brother meets Survivor reality series Utopia Sunday night, but thanks to two days of constant arguing, drinking and angry confrontations between cast members, it was more like Dystopia. And no cast member was more of a dystopian force than resident Kentucky hillbilly Red, who was the perfect reality show ratings catalyst with his over-the-top outburst over wanting to eat a chicken that died mysteriously. But, perhaps it’s should be no surprise that Red was so great at being a reality show star because he already was one!
Red, whose real name is Arthur VanWinkle, was the main character of Discovery’s Blue Grass Boys reality series that aired in October, 2013. In the show he led a band of marijuana growers in Kentucky, so instead of being labeled “Handyman” as on Utopia, he was described as “Master Grower:”
Here’s the description of the show from Discovery:
On Tuesday, October 1 at 8/7c, Discovery will take a fun-loving look at the intersection of outlaw and lawman in the hills of Eastern Kentucky on The Blue Grass Boys.
A real life Dukes of Hazzard, The Blue Grass Boys follows Red and his band of family, who are loving, god-fearing Kentucky outlaws who have been growing marijuana in the hills they call home since they were old enough to carry water. The only thing standing between the blue grass boys and a whole lot of green is the local law man, Constable Freddie Clark. Freddie and the boys have grown up together and he’s arrested them more times than any of them can remember. But this growing season, Red and the boys are taking their operation to the next level, and Freddie is doubling his efforts to take them down for good.
And here’s a full two-hour episode of Blue Grass Boys with A LOT of Red:
Red wasn’t allowed to reveal he was going to be on Utopia in advance, but he did let his fans know on Facebook that he would be away for a while:
I may have to leave y’all for a while, which makes me very sad. I don’t think I will be able to give a good notice before I leave, so here it is.
But I will return, no worries. This is a good thing, nothing bad. I hope y’all continue to support me while I am gone ,’-) pPp Aihooooooo
On August 19 he updated:
Check you later ,’-) pPp Aihoooooooo
Reading fans’ comments on the Utopia Facebook page, it seems like the majority of folks were turned off because they thought the show was scripted due to the kinds of predictable drama and behaviors of the characters. I wouldn’t go so far as to say the show is scripted, but I do think that you do wind up with a lot of predictable results (albeit seemingly wild and crazy) that often times seem like the result of people who want to be reality stars trying to act like reality stars — and certainly having people who have been on reality shows before would seem to lend itself to that.
These casting overlaps seem to be a VERY common phenomenon in reality television, which makes me think that the casting departments need to be a little more creative in finding people — especially for shows like Utopia. I’ve got nothing against Red (I thought he was pretty funny, although it did seem like he was hamming it up most of the time), but given the premise of this show, it really needed to star “regular” folks to be effective, not people familiar with being on reality shows already. (Unless perhaps there was a professional reality show star like Erica Rose or something, and that was her identity on the show.) I can guarandamntee you that if you had driven around the hills of Kentucky looking for an authentic character with versatile handyman skills that never would have dreamed of being on a reality show you would have found him (or her) pretty easily. (That’s how MTV found Buckwild‘s breakout star Shane Gandee, unlike the rest of the cast that producers found the usual way.)
Is it really a billion dollar insight that at this point casting people who are actively looking to be on a reality show all but guarantees it will not be that “real?” You have to find the people who would never have thought to visit reality show casting call websites, etc. if you want to find real deal characters that won’t automatically start trying to act like they think reality stars should act once the cameras start rolling.
OK, I’ll quit rambling now. 🙂
Did you see Utopia? What did you think?
Catch new episodes of Utopia Tuesday and Friday nights on Fox! (I’m not sure what time it airs, neither the Utopia website or Facebook page has the times.)