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?
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. The series really doesn't get much into the history of the area or the history of the activity, although it remains at least a mostly tense, involving (although a little repetitive) series.
A game designer at a popular game studio once described a highly popular game as "there was maybe 30 seconds of fun that happened over and over and over and over again. And so, if you can get 30 seconds of fun, you can pretty much stretch that out to be an entire game." Whether that description is an accurate portrayal of the game is debatable, but it's definitely a good way to sum up this series. That's not to say that it doesn't work, but it's basically all about that tense moment when the hunters are in pursuit, again and again. The series is still undeniably tense, but it's starting to feel a little repetitive around the edges at this point, too.
Essentially, the series is like any number of other dangerous jobs series (speaking of, bring back "Dirty Jobs"...), covering a season of various groups of people trying to grind it out as they 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 - maybe they're evolving...), 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 (or, better yet, rather than trying to make the people into "personalities" as reality shows do, maybe go deeper into their history and back story to give the audience a greater sense of who they are.)
The fourth season again sees the group against weather - which must be one of their worst enemies in the South - as the season gets a late start due to hurricane Issac. In the opener, Troy also has to face trying to get his oldest son, Brandon, quickly up-and-running in the tactics of hunting as he's replacing Troy's former partner. Elsewhere, Liz has her daughter, Jessica, fill in for a time while Liz cleans up her farm after the storm.
As per usual for the cast of the series, if it's not one thing, it's another. A few episodes in, it becomes clear that the fish are suffering from the leaves that have fallen on the water due to the hurricane. However, inventive Liz and Jessica try to figure out away around the problem. If that's not bad enough, severe weather wraps around again, first with a cold front and then with a lightning storm ("Lightning Strikes") that catches hunters out on the water.
There are a number of tense moments throughout several of the episodes, although one of the most bizarre remains "The Reaper", as the hunters seek out a gator that has been bold enough to go snatch cattle from local ranches during the night. Even duck hunters cause trouble as their season overlaps with gator season ("Sabotaged").
Overall, I continue to like "Swamp People". It's admittedly feeling a little repetitive at times, but it's mostly tense, brisk and involving. I don't see how they can pull too many more seasons out of the premise, but it still delivers solid ratings for the channel.
• Season 4 49 4-01 14/Feb/13 Swamp Invaders
50 4-02 21/Feb/13 50th Episode: Texas Hold 'Em
51 4-03 28/Feb/13 Floating Dead
52 4-04 07/Mar/13 The Poacher
53 4-05 14/Mar/13 Blood Lines
54 4-06 21/Mar/13 Waging War
55 4-07 28/Mar/13 Deadly Chili
56 4-08 04/Apr/13 No Surrender
57 4-09 11/Apr/13 Breaking Point
58 4-10 18/Apr/13 Cursed
59 4-11 25/Apr/13 Ride or Die
60 4-12 02/May/13 Devoured
61 4-13 09/May/13 Young Blood
62 4-14 16/May/13 Deadly Duo
63 4-15 23/May/13 Lightning Strikes
64 4-16 30/May/13 Sabotaged
65 4-17 06/Jun/13 Down Goes the King
66 4-18 13/Jun/13 Blood Runs Deep
67 4-19 20/Jun/13 Beast of the East
68 4-20 27/Jun/13 The Reaper
69 4-21 11/Jul/13 Deadly Divide
70 4-22 18/Jul/13 No Tomorrow
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" remains exceedingly popular - the series continues to draw in viewers and has just started a fifth season. The show still remains undeniably tense, but the feeling of repetitiveness starts to creep in. 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.