By Ken Tucker
Updated January 03, 2013 at 12:00 PM EST
Credit: MTV

Buckwild premiered on Thursday night, preceded by the usual this-is-the-end-of-civilization condemnation/hype that greets any well-promoted MTV reality series featuring youthful humans. But after watching the two back-to-back initial episodes, I’d say MTV’s main problem is that these West Virginia kids may be a little too likable to get all huffy and self-righteous about.

Unlike the Jersey Shore stooges, some of the “cast” of Buckwild have real jobs. I’d like to see The Situation haul trash on a truck the way the goofball male star of Buckwild, Shain, does. Growing up and living working-class in Sissonville, West Virginia, Shain noted that he “ain’t got no phone, no Facebook, none of that internet stuff. ” Instead, he and his boys, including what passes for a stud in this show, soulful-eyed Tyler, spend their time “fixin’ stuff, buildin’ stuff.”

The premiere peaked with Shain, Tyler, and some of the guys creating a swimming pool out of the back of a dump truck as a lure to get the girls into bathing suits. It was pretty clever, filling the back of the truck with water after putting down cushioning mattresses and plastic tarp. Preceding this, we’d seen the Buckwild kids go “muddin'” — splashing cars, ATVs, and trucks through mud until they become mired in it — and partying themselves senseless.

The girl who attracts the most attention is Cara, who’s exerts an exotic allure to both the guys and her gal pals because she’s been to college, has flame-red hair, and needs to be introduced to the boys’ backwoods ways. She’s set up by the producers as our way into what MTV apparently sees as a bizarre subdivision of America rather than what it is — the lives a heck of a lot of citizens lead. “I got me some deer meat!” is Shain’s triumphant contribution to a party, plopping a moist bag of something dead on a table in the “girls’ house.”

Buckwild is set up like many another reality show to create friction. Over the course of Thursday’s hour, the girls — including Cara, Anna, and Katie — get evicted from their first house for partying too loudly. Anna, who in the daytime speaks with forthright articulateness to the camera, becomes a brawler after a few too many beers. She also set up the night’s other forced drama — the refusal of Cara to admit she liked Tyler. What? Anna screamed at Cara to admit to… having a crush on a guy and making out with him? For saying, “I like what I know of him,” which is well-neigh poetic. Tyler summed up the entire show’s chief drawback in a sentence:

“Y’all’s makin’ a big deal out of nothin’.”

West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin sent a letter to the president of MTV asking the network to cancel the show before it premiered, saying the show profits off of “poor decisions of our youth.” Yes indeed it does, Senator. But the politician should at least acknowledge that the girls displayed respect for law enforcement. As a patrol car pulled up to quell the noise complaints, one of the young women said, “Is that Officer Davis? Oh, my Gawd, I love him!”

Here’s an exclusive clip from next week’s episode of Buckwild:

Twitter: @kentucker