Rednecks are rarely an American stereotype associated with highly educated rocket scientists, and it’s exactly upon this crux that the new show Rocket City Rednecks draws its unique selling point. Having already completed two seasons in the states, the show has been picked up for a UK running by trusty channel Dave (and most-likely multiple multiple re-runnings).
One of the show’s first charms is Travis Taylor, a highly educated and charismatic ‘redneck’, who leads the events, clarifies the science for the audience and helps to bond his engineering friends together through banter – and the occasional beer. He’s a likeable character and as with all of his crew (either friends or family members) they’re clearly highly-educated professionals in their chosen fields of expertise. A quick glance at the screen or opening credits could see you mistaking this show for nothing more than a few Southern American simpletons playing around with machinery – but don’t let the Southern drawls fool you – there is a lot of method to the madness.
The opening episode sees the gang explore ways in which they could destroy a hypothetical comet set for a collision with earth, on a weekend away from the mass budgets and space age technology their NASA jobs may offer. They instead solve this problem with a simple trebuchet, a crate of watermelons and in-true-redneck-style a truck load of guns. Again this could be perceived as rednecks shooting watermelons in their back garden, which it ultimately is, but behind each model, construction or method there is a meticulous scientific grounding. This simple approach to science is exactly where Rocket City Rednecks draws its charm. Everything feels simple, down to earth and understandable yet at the same time the models that are created provide cheap and effective solutions to complex scientific problems.
This juxtaposition of Southern stereotyping and effective research method makes the science digestible and the overall show extremely fun and entertaining. It does feel like the Southern-ness is at times overplayed, with the opening credits springing to mind, but overall it provides an enjoyable framing device for a science show that enjoyably pokes holes in Southern stereotypes. At times the show falls into semi-reality TV territory with awkward editing and over-constructed delivery of lines, although these are sparse enough as to not take away from the overall experience. The 30 minute format keeps the pace exciting whilst still being easily consumed, and thankfully steers the programme away from the ‘45 minutes of build up for one final large experiment’ format of some other science magazine shows.
Rocket City Rednecks is a blend between serious science and Southern caricaturing that somehow works, not to mention fits perfectly into the Dave’s archive of shows. The reality TV elements are stomach-able but feel tacked on for the social media generation and although the redneck focus can be overplayed it ultimately provides comical relief and that time old treasure – Southern hospitality. Somehow this programme feels larger than life while also being rooted in reality, the constructions are modest and not built to hog the limelight, but the Southern accents, solutions and lifestyle give a surrealist tinge to the overall production.
It’s a simple but effective recipe, like deep fried chicken and potatoes: take one part Scrapheap Challenge and knead in a healthy scoop of Mythbusters, before seasoning with chunks of Duck Dynasty, fry for 30 minutes and you’ve got something close to Rocket City Rednecks.
Rocket City Rednecks will be broadcast at 7pm, on Monday 17th of March on Dave.