There are some shows on The History Channel where an argument can be made how much historical content they deliver - with Pawn Stars, one can point to the fact that the show's "characters" at least provide a good deal of detail about the information regarding all of the various items that find their way into the store.
With "Swamp People", we get a title card before the episodes that informs us that "The way of life depicted in this series goes back 300 years." The way of life in this case revolves around a group of people living in the swamp who hunt gators. Doesn't hunting in general go back quite a ways?
There's nothing of great historical significance here - there could have been a few little discussions about the history of the area or other aspects, but there's really not much beyond the core of the characters hunting. However, that doesn't necessarily mean it's not a mildly engaging series, just that it's not particularly informative about, well, history on any level. Surprisingly there's not been a cross-over episode with "Swamp Loggers", but "Swamp People" did - not surprisingly, given what reality shows are doing these days - spawn a spin-off, "Outback Hunters", which follows hunters in the Aussie outback.
Essentially, take different groups of people who spend their lives doing a seriously difficult, dangerous task, take one season of their work and cover it, reminding people every-so-often that the team needs x amount more to fill their quota for the season. They have a certain number of tags ("tag 'em and bag 'em, I guess), and when they're out of tags, they're done. In this case, the series follows a series of gator hunters in the Atchafalaya Basin swamps of Louisiana. The series has switched up the participants a bit over the seasons, but the general premise remains the same.
The series bounces between different groups of gator hunters as they encounter the creatures and try to bag as many as possible. There are definitely close calls and dangerous moments (and gators that seem increasingly aggressive and intelligent), but the various crews eventually get their targets and move on to the next one. There's some personal dramas and tension - the series could even stand to develop the personalities of the trappers a bit more - as the very quick season (30 days) means that there's little time to mess around.
As I've said with other reality shows such as this one, it's all about casting. These are brave, down-to-earth people (did I mention brave - these gators are not exactly swamp kittens) who make their living doing a task that few people have the stones to do. This is the kind of show where one hunter tells the other to "jump in and see how big it is" when they find a log and the other shrugs and just jumps in into the gator-filled swamp. This time around, hunters include RJ and son Jay, skilled fem gator grabbers Liz and Kristi and others.
As we see in "Turf War", these people have to make a living, and it's not always by grabbing gators, some fish for things like shrimp and catfish on the side to supplement their income during the season. This season also sees the groups have to contend with other issues as they try to find giant gators like one called "Bigfoot". "Scorched" shows the brutal heat that the hunters have to face and the toll it takes on them an a tropical storm that hits the area first threatens to shut down the season altogether and causes the waters to rise. As if the short nature of the season didn't cause tension enough, "Something Wicked This Way Comes" sees the hunters hurry as they try to get what they can get in before the storm hits with some serious force.
• Season 3 27 3-01 09/Feb/12 Gator Gold Rush
28 3-02 16/Feb/12 No Guts, No Gator
29 3-03 23/Feb/12 Divide to Conquer
30 3-04 01/Mar/12 Monster Marsh
31 3-05 08/Mar/12 Avenged
32 3-06 15/Mar/12 Treebreaker 2
33 3-07 29/Mar/12 Something Wicked this Way Comes
34 3-08 05/Apr/12 Rising Waters
35 3-09 12/Apr/12 Rebound
36 3-10 19/Apr/12 Gates of Hell
37 3-11 26/Apr/12 Under Siege
38 3-12 03/May/12 Secret Weapons
39 3-13 10/May/12 Scorched
40 3-14 17/May/12 Voodoo Bayou
41 3-15 24/May/12 Turf War
42 3-16 31/May/12 Big Gators, Big Dollars
43 3-17 07/Jun/12 Never Say Die
44 3-18 14/Jun/12 Cold-Blooded
45 3-19 21/Jun/12 King of the Swamp
46 3-20 28/Jun/12 Man Down
47 3-21 05/Jul/12 Stick and Move
48 3-22 12/Jul/12 Bayou's Best
VIDEO: The series is presented in 1.78:1 widescreen by A & E. The presentation is decent, with acceptable sharpness and detail. The picture is certainly not fuzzy, but generally has a slightly-to-mildly soft look. Some minor shimmering and a couple of traces of pixelation are also spotted on a handful of occasions. Colors look well-saturated and generally clean, although like the rest of the transfer, not noteworthy in any way.
SOUND: Clear stereo presentation with a good deal of outdoor ambience.
EXTRAS: Deleted footage.
Final Thoughts: "Swamp People" still feels a little repetitive at times but it generates some tension with its increasingly aggressive gator co-stars. People still certainly seem to like the series quite a bit: the season finale of the second season managed to draw pretty remarkable numbers for a cable docu-series. The DVD offers minimal extras, but fine audio/video quality. Fans of the series should take a look, but others who haven't seen the series should consider trying a rent first.