PBS’ Country Boys debuts tonight

Many of us watch reality TV because it’s outrageously fun to watch a bunch of twits clamor for camera time while trying to navigate some outrageous artificial situation. At the same time, reality television is a window into the lives of others and the world around us, and that forms a significant part of its appeal.

Because of that, starting today, reality blurred will devote occasional coverage to noteworthy (emphasis on the worthy) documentaries in film and on television, specifically those that, like reality TV, present an entertaining story about real people in interesting or extraordinary situations or circumstances. And it was, after all, a 12-episode documentary, PBS’ An American Family, that gave birth to reality television as we know it.

Tonight, PBS debuts a three-part Frontline documentary Country Boys. It follows “Chris Johnson and Cody Perkins, two boys coming of age in the Appalachian hills of Floyd County in eastern Kentucky,” according to PBS’ synopsis. David Sutherland, whose documentary The Farmer’s Wife was critically acclaimed, followed the two for three years to produce the film.

Cody’s “mother’s postpartum suicide left the infant boy in the care of his father, who, 12 years later, killed his seventh wife before turning the gun on himself. Bounced around among relatives he barely knew, Cody eventually chose to live with his former step-grandmother,” while Chris “lives in a rundown trailer in a Kentucky ‘holler’ with his mother, Sheila, a high school dropout who cleans hotel rooms for a living, and his father, Randall, an alcoholic with terminal cirrhosis of the liver” and he “supports the family financially with the monthly Social Security disability check he receives for his learning disorders.”

And we think the kids on The Real World have problems.

The three two-hour parts air tonight, tomorrow, and Wednesday, most likely starting at 9 p.m. ET (check local listings), thankfully giving much of the country an alternative to The Bachelor 9.

Country Boys [PBS Frontline]

about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.