Fishing, usually a gentlemans sport, gets a makeover in Hillbilly Hand Fishing.

The three dominant events on local television for 2012 were rugby, fishing and looking for meaning in old rubbish.

One is amazed, truly amazed, by the number of fishing shows on television. Why should this be? Endless sport involving balls and fast cars I fully understand, but fishing? Could it be that fishing is inherently passive and risk-free? And then along comes Hillbilly Hand Fishing and once more I am amazed, all over again.

It seems that somewhere in the less developed, Third World parts of the US, hooks, lines and sinkers are unknown. When Oklahoma residents hunger for some catfish, they get right into the muddy rivers and catch them by hand.

In a strange but pertinent way this tells you more about the intellect of catfish than it does of their captors. Some catfish – a barbel by any other name – are huge. Huge, but still stupid. Even the biggest ones get caught by hand, usually with some sort of yellow nylon lasso. Ride ’em cowboy!

After one to two catfish and the fish-related dialogue of the damp Oklahomans, the magic of this craft soon wanes. So, to give it legs, so to speak, the directors of the show knew just what to add to the mix. Reality television! Yes, sir, folks! Just like Idols in one very specific way. So what do we get? Out-of-state strangers who waddle into the muddy waters with the regular catfish hunters and catch catfish by hand!

This, like all reality television – be it singing competitions, cooking shows or total plastic surgery make-overs – results in lengthy solo chats with the camera in which the reality star tells you all about his or her feelings. In the context of manual catfish hunting, these emotions take some telling.

The presence of reality television has become universal. Even shows about rubbish are full of the stuff. Consider the series called Scrappers. These are humble working-class folk who live in Brooklyn, New York, and collect old metal for resale. I had no idea how boring their personal lives and professional activities were until I saw the movie despite some searing scenes of tight drama and lurid emotion.

One scrap dealer had failed to pay another scrap dealer. There was quite a lot of shouting, pushing and shoving. We cut to a hairdressing salon where a scrap dealer is having his eyebrows waxed prior to his forthcoming nuptials. Back in the van with his buddies we hear some hoarse badinage about tattooed scrotums. I have no idea what this can possibly mean or how it relates to recycling old washing machines. Maybe future episodes will clear up this mystery.

One continues to marvel at the extraordinary number of spurious statistics that The Game generates in gorgeous on-screen graphics. Sadly the only one that matters is the final score. Returning to the spectacle, the combination of outstanding camerawork, great sound and an HD image makes the SuperSport experience very hard to beat. Increasingly the role of the ref and his (it’s always his) assistants add their own spice to the experience. Not all refs are good to watch. Some, like the entire non-South African line-up, are villains worthy only of fear or contempt. Our chaps are truly marvellous, genetically incapable of error or partisanship. The only reason there isn’t a Nobel Prize for Rugby Referees is the simple fact that only South Africans would win it.

There you have it: a look back in head-shaking disbelief and amazement. Best wishes for 2013!

Sunday Tribune