"Porter Ridge," a new Discovery Channel reality sitcom about backwoods men with long beards, sometimes talking about Jesus, may seem at first glance like a spin-off from A&E's hit show "Duck Dynasty," but the producer behind both shows asserts that "Porter Ridge" is completely different than "Duck Dynasty."
"Porter Ridge is more about freedom verses family," Scott Gurney, executive producer for both shows, explain to The Christian Post in a Thursday interview. While he said both shows aim to be family-friendly, Gurney contrasted the neighborhood focus of the new show to the Robertson family starring in "Duck Dynasty."
"It's more about the good old days of being good to your neighbor, doing your job, and having great friendships," Gurney said.
"Porter Ridge" follows the eccentric lives of Terry Porter and his neighbors. Porter runs a junkyard, selling old car parts with his son and his uncooperative employees. He competes with a rival junkyard called "Dog Killer Ridge," which buys a car from Kathy, his mother-in-law, in the second episode.
Right across from the junkyard lives Jeff Watson, the "Bear Man."
- Discovery Channel
"Calling a bear a pet can garner you a little bit of criticism," Watson told CP Thursday. He currently has eight bears, and works to feed the animals with their big appetites. In the first episode, his bear Bob smells out truffles, which the "Bear Man" sells to a local restaurant for $600.
Watson started domesticating bears following a "mid-life crisis" at age 20, when Guillain-Barre Syndrome, also known as "French Polio," paralyzed him. He said he had to rely on God to get him through this time, but afterward he was free to live in the woods.
The "Bear Man" also relied on Jesus' comfort when his wife died five years ago, and when his daughter had open heart surgery. "If it wasn't for God, I wouldn't be able to handle that situation," he said. He remembered "calling everybody," asking for prayers.
While Watson emphasized that "Porter Ridge" is not a Christian show, he said he was thankful for the ability to mention Jesus on it. "I hope we can uplift the name of Christ on this show," he said. Terry Porter's junkyard has a sign which reads "Jesus is Coming Soon," and each episode opening tells the ridge's code – "Respect the Lord, love your family, and watch each other's backs."
Besides that, Watson said he hopes "we bring back some of the old school family values to television." While he described Terry Porter as "odd and confusing and funny," and "cut from a different cloth," Watson still lends him a hand whenever he needs it.
Gurney said this neighborly spirit reminded him of the 1950s, "when there is a problem, there's a fistfight, not a lawsuit," he explained. "It's just treat your neighbor right, do your job, respect your friends."
While Variety reported the show's ratings as "OK," at 1.42 million viewers, Gurney said he was astounded. "We have five times the audience that we initially had in Duck Dynasty Season One," he explained. Since his earlier show became a big hit, few remember the troubles in the beginning. Now in its fourth season, "Duck Dynasty" became the most watched reality TV show ever, with a staggering 11.8 million viewers.
"It takes time to find viewers, but when viewers find it they don't leave," Gurney explained. He contrasted "Porter Ridge" with item-based shows like American Pickers, which have performed well in the past few years. Instead of focusing on a hidden or valuable object, "Porter Ridge" zeroes in on relationships.
While "Duck Dynasty" episodes famously end with prayer, each "Porter Ridge" installment ends with the community sitting around a campfire, discussing what they did right and how they can improve next time.