Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Let's hear it for the red, white and blue-collar

Flag-waving comic gits-R-done

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Just how much you'll enjoy Only in America with Larry the Cable Guy depends solely on two things: how much you love the United States of America, and how eager you'd be to go on a road trip with the coarse-talking, plaid-shirted member of Jeff Foxworthy's blue-collar comedy crew.

In other words, this one's pretty much an all-or-nothing proposition.

The southern-fried "Git-R-Done" character -- created by Nebraska-born comedian/actor/radio personality Dan Whitney -- has become one of the most wealthy and successful joke-tellers of the past decade, partly by riding in the wake of Foxworthy's massive "You might be a redneck" appeal (including the huge-hit Blue Collar Comedy tours and TV series) and partly by doling out that pseudo-hillbilly brand of humour from the ground-level perspective of a guy who lives it.

Of course, he doesn't. Larry the Cable Guy is a make-believe redneck; Dan Whitney is a marketing genius.

In this new series, which debuts Monday on Comedy, Dan-as-Larry becomes the latest in a long line of entertainers, journalists and TV personalities to set out on a cross-country journey in search of unusual destinations and interesting characters.

The agenda, as stated by the host in the trademark sleeveless plaid shirt, camouflage shorts and ubiquitous ball cap, is simple: to find out all about "the people, the history and the way we do things -- only in America."

It's an unapologetic, written-in-crayon love letter to the country he (and his like-minded fan base) loves, mostly delivered with a sense of wide-eyed wonder that makes Only in America both amusing and a bit contrived.

In the episode provided for preview, Larry ventures to Columbia, Tenn., to take part in that oh-so-American town's annual celebration of an underrated animal -- "the inside story of why the ass should be America's national symbol -- and I'm talkin' mules."

Larry visits with mule breeders, mule historians, mule trainers and the festival's winsome Mule Queen, at times showing genuine interest in what he's being told (these are the moments when Whitney's redneck accent starts to slip away), but more often using each contributor's insights as a setup for yet another Larry-style joke.

The redneck quotient goes pretty much off the charts in the next segment, in which Larry travels to Fairfax, Va., to visit the National Rifle Association's gun museum -- affording Whitney the opportunity to shoot some really big weapons while Larry cracks wise about foreigners while declaring that the NRA's collection represents "why we're free today."

(Only in America drinking-game suggestion: take a shot every time Larry utters the word "America"; double it up anytime it's combined in a sentence with "great," "free" or "gun" -- oh, and don't make any plans for after the show).

In short, this show -- which premièred last winter on U.S. cable's History channel, of all places -- turns out to be pretty much exactly what you expect -- a flag-waving, wise-cracking, overly patriotic and slightly xenophobic/misogynistic celebration of how great America is and how much everywhere else ain't.

It's Larry being Larry, which will be more than enough for his fans and way too much for his critics.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 14, 2011 D4

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