Through a little searching I came up with a list of thirteen shows that are either currently airing or have aired within the past few years that are set within the context of the Appalachian region. Although not included in my list, the History Channel’s television mini-series The Hatfields and McCoys has perhaps been the pinnacle of this current wave of interest. Debuting in 2012, the show has proven to be a hit and has been re-aired on more than one occasion. The feud has existed within American minds and lingo for decades. But the show has revived interest in the vendetta, causing a significant increase in spheres such as local tourism and community festivals in eastern Kentucky and southern West Virginia.
However, The Hatfields and McCoys from the History Channel is only the apex of the media’s present day obsession with the Appalachian region. For good or for ill, American television is pushing an image of Appalachia before the watching world. The question we must ask, then, is if this image is an accurate portrayal of the region or a fabrication merely updated and recycled? Through our unfiltered television viewing and consumption, it is as if we have presented our blank canvases before the entertainment industry, allowing them to paint for us the portrait of an Appalachian American, all the while treating their work of fiction as fact and exaggeration as reality. Surely we can do better.
The difference between the era of shows like The Beverly Hillbillies and the present is a shift from fictional television shows to “reality shows.” What was once partly understood as a non-reality, though many concluded otherwise, is now presented as true accounts of life in Appalachia. But is this the case? Are these true accounts of life in Appalachia? I would point out that pulling minimal characteristics of a region and broadly brushing these characteristics across the whole of the region, flattens out the diversity and ultimately mischaracterizes a whole people. This is the essence of the stereotype.
To end this post, below is a list of the thirteen shows I mentioned above. In a separate post, I will attempt to draw from the shows’ descriptions common threads that are weaved throughout them by the creators and I will then seek to answer the question, “What should we make of these representations of Appalachia?”
- COAL—Spike TV
- Mountain Monsters—Destination America
- Hillbilly Blood—Destination America
- Chasing Nashville—Lifetime
- Snake Salvation—National Geographic
- Kentucky Justice—National Geographic
- Smokey Mountain Money—National Geographic
- Southern Justice—National Geographic
- Snake Man of Appalachia—Animal Planet
- The Moonshiners—Discovery Channel
- Appalachian Outlaws—History Channel
 Quoted by Horace Newcomb, “Appalachia on Television: Region as Symbol in American Popular Culture” in Appalachian Images in Folk and Popular Culture, ed. W.K. McNeil (Knoxville: The University of Tennessee Press, 1995), 317-318.
 Newcomb, “Appalachia on Television” in Appalachian Images, 318.