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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that the reality series Appalachian Outlaws is all about the rough-and-tumble ginseng business (that's right, the bitter root) in rural Appalachia. It features violently competitive behavior, from threats to shooting, burning property, and running people off roads (no one gets hurt). Stealing, retribution, and making profit at any cost are themes. There's lots of salty vocab ("piss," "bitch"; stronger curses bleeped) and moonshine drinking. Stereotyping of the end buyers, businessmen in China, happens often.
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What's the Story?
APPALACHIAN OUTLAWS is a reality series featuring the trials and tribulations of Appalachian ginseng root growers and diggers as they work hard to meet the demands of big-city buyers. Thanks to overharvesting in Asia, the demand and price for the herb has skyrocketed. West Virginia middlemen such as Tony Coffman and Corby Patton rely on diggers such as Greg Shook and Obie Bennett to dig up the wild ginseng in the Appalachian mountains to fill big orders and make huge profits. They also negotiate deals with landowners such as Mike Ross and Willow Kelly to be able to harvest their patches if necessary. But the ginseng season is short, and the competition gets intense. Meanwhile, locals try to keep outsiders from poaching their ginseng patches, even if it means resorting to stealing and other violent tactics to keep their roots safe.
Is It Any Good?
The series offers a look at what the ginseng business is like in West Virginia, which has become a highly profitable area for the trade thanks to minimal government regulations and the high demand for the herb. But the show's entertainment value come from long-standing family feuds, territorial strife, and business rivalries that lead to car chases and burning down property.
Though the competition for ginseng may be real, the narratives presented here often seem contrived and, in some cases, completely fabricated to generate a greater sense of conflict. The stereotyping of people, including Chinese businessmen, sets the foundation for some of this drama. You may find this unique slice of American business entertaining, but it's definitely hard to separate fact from fiction.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about what makes reality shows real. Can a TV program be considered a reality show if it tells stories that are embellished or just plain not true? Why isn't it considered a work of fiction when this happens?
Why do people agree to appear on TV shows when they're engaging in inappropriate or even illegal behaviors?
Is it ever appropriate to use stereotypes when trying to make a TV show more interesting or entertaining? What if there is some truth to what's being presented?
- Premiere date: January 9, 2014
- Cast: Tony Coffman, Corby Patton, Greg Shook
- Network: History
- Genre: Reality TV
- TV rating: TV-14
- Last updated: October 14, 2022
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