Hix hits spawn brood of redneck skeins

Red-state appeal picks up steam on blue turf among advertisers

Rednecks are striking a chord in the blue states.

As network execs present advertisers with their first look at pilot season, maybe Madison Avenue ought to think twice before plunking down premiums for sexy soaps and think Bubba.

Fall casualties such as “LAX,” “Hawaii,” “Dr. Vegas” and “North Shore” may have commanded higher 30-second spot rates than “Blue Collar TV” and “Reba.” But the heartland success of the latter two — make that any program featuring “Blue Collar TV’s” professional redneck Jeff Foxworthy — is paving the way for more down-home fare.

Comedy Central is unleashing proven blue collar entity Brett Butler on the heartland for an unscripted skein while the WB hopes to extend its redneck aud with a mobile home makeover project. The Peacock and Alphabet also have projects mining yuks from a red state perspective.

For those who don’t know, this brand of blue collar comedy features red meat-eatin’ Joe Sixpack folks, winnebagos, cheap beer and even cheaper “You might be a redneck if” jokes.

Stacey Lynn Koerner, exec VP and director of global research for Initiative Media, says red-state appeal is picking up steam on blue turf among advertisers who tend to be enticed by edgy urban shows. But Koerner expects more to get onboard, the way they did after pooh-poohing reality television at its onset.

“We’re seeing the beginning of a phenomenon with this pocket of interest in Americana and down-home humor,” she says. “As advertisers begin to tap in to that, and as it becomes broader, you’ll see everyone tip their scale.”

One lit agent puts it another way: “These viewers are the same people who made ‘The Pacifier’ a hit. Do you see anyone at Disney complaining?”

Comedy Central’s certianly not complaining about its “Blue Collar Comedy Tour 2” preem, which scored a whopping 6.1 million viewers, the cabler’s second-largest aud. Viacom sib Country Music Television kicked off “Dukes of Hazzard” reruns against the Academy Awards and still won the night in adults 18-49 and men 18-49 on basic cable. Hourlong spec “CMT Inside Fame: The Dukes of Hazzard” earned the cabler its highest-rated telecast ever.

CMT exec VP-general manager Brian Philips bets the forthcoming “Dukes” movie will do the same. “It may be redneck humor, but it’s resonating everywhere.”

  • Broadcast nets are gobbling up more and more of what one TV agent calls “hee-haw” comedy pilots. On the burner at NBC is “My Name Is Earl” centered on a petty thief who wins the lottery and attempts a midlife makeover. The Alphabet has “Red & Blue,” about a conservative grandfather and his liberal son, and “Neighbors,” about political opposites whose wives become best friends.

  • The WB is extending its “Blue Collar” brand with a pair of backdoor pilots. Besides mobile home makeovers, the frog has centered a project on Southern-fried comedian Rob White, who headlined the Blue Collar Comedy Tour alongside the weekly skein’s regular cast members.

  • Butler is developing her unscripted project with “The Chris Rock Show” scribe Chuck Sklar. Laffer net also is working with “American Movie” team Mark Borchardt and Mike Schank for a series that chronicles the duo’s efforts to shoot their next horror film with their eccentric band of Wisconsin buddies.

Most of the shows appeal primarily to the smaller, rural markets, or Nielsen’s “C&D counties” — not Madison Avenue’s favorite demo.

But the programs come with built-in perks for networks, argues Comedy Central programming/development chief Lauren Corrao.

Laffer net repurposes “Blue Collar” on Mondays and repeats the cast’s standup specials to big numbers. The debut of Foxworthy’s spec, “Totally Committed,” drew 3.6 million viewers, tying with the most-watched episode of media darling “Chappelle’s Show.”

“We barely have to do any marketing for these guys. They have such a loyal following,” she says. “The audience is just ultra aware of when anything ‘Blue Collar’ is on. The truth is Jeff and those guys do their marketing every single day by going on the road and doing radio and standup.”

Her biggest advantage, however, is attracting an older crowd to Comedy Central, which tends to play exclusively to young guys. Median age of “Blue Collar” is 42.

“That age might not be the best thing for our broadcast competitors, but it’s a good thing for us because we’re trying to reach a broader set of viewers,” Corrao says. “There are advertisers, like beer, that won’t buy on shows whose median age is too young.”

Koerner says “just because someone lives in a C or D county, doesn’t mean they’re any less desirable. That’s most of the country, after all. We all use toilet paper, right? There are still the staples.”

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