TV

UK frat boy makes an impression on reality show 'Party Down South 2'

Hunter  Robinson, a Harrodsburg native and a University of Kentucky  student, figures prominently in the CMT reality series Party Down South 2.
Hunter Robinson, a Harrodsburg native and a University of Kentucky student, figures prominently in the CMT reality series Party Down South 2. Herald-Leader

In the trailers for the CMT reality show Party Down South 2, a sequel to the network's highest-rated show, Lexington's own Hunter Robinson makes an impression.

In just 65 seconds of video, the burly Harrodsburg native offers a prayerful ode to both drinking alcohol and America, screams "we're driiinkinnn'," while pulling three people on a mattress through a house, and sweet-talks a beer keg, saying, "You saved me from the dark times". The show debuts Nov. 20.

How did the University of Kentucky frat boy achieve what he hopes could be 15-plus minutes of fame?

This, like many of Robinson's stories, begins with a few beers.

It was late one night after some serious partying when Robinson, 23, saw on the Internet a hottie from the original version of the country-fried reality show, Party Down South, and went searching for some more photographs to enjoy.

Clicking through the website, he happened upon an application to join the cast. He filled it out.

What he wrote about himself, well, he's not exactly sure about that.

But off into the ether the application went, and Robinson didn't think much about it.

In the months between when he filed the application and when he received the call for an interview, the proud graduate of Mercer County High School and member of Kappa Alpha fraternity concentrated on what could be considered his unofficial college major: Being the most awesome party dude he could possibly be.

"I've always been that guy to get people pumped up, no matter what we are doing," said Robinson, whose official major is special education and who is prone to wearing a tattered red KA baseball cap backward.

Every week, he sends out a mass text to remind friends to join him for all-you-can-drink $10 Thirsty Thursday at the famous Two Keys Tavern.

At 6-feet 2-inches tall and "240-ish" pounds, Robinson maintains the build of the high school linemen he once was and makes an impression.

As it turns, out so did that application.

Executive producer Morgan Selzer said at least 1,000 applications were reviewed, and "We loved Hunter's sort-of bold personality." Robinson was one of 25 hopefuls flown to Los Angeles. It was the first time he had been on a plane.

"He is just so fun-loving. He has so much energy," Selzer said.

And he loves beer?

"That doesn't hurt at all," she said with a laugh.

Selzer said that even though show runners went to mudding events and the like to recruit cast members, creators of Party Down South 2 didn't have a preconceived notion which slice of the South would be portrayed. Selzer said that if folks who were recruited from a mudding rally want to go mudding, well, the cameras will go along.

She said it's not the kind of reality show that manufactures story lines. "We don't really pick what to shoot," Selzer said. "We kind of let them (the cast) lead the story."

The cast did often break out a phone book to decide how to spend their time during the six-week shoot, Robinson said. Cellphones, television and the Internet were not allowed, he said, but there was an endless supply of alcohol.

When asked how show runners balance the sometimes physical fighting and boozing that dominates the trailers with keeping the cast safe and under control, Selzer instead talked about how the show focuses on fun and the bond created among the cast.

"Obviously, a lot of the show is about having fun and letting loose," she said. The strangers are thrown together in an extreme circumstance and "become really close really fast," she said.

The original Party Down South cast just filmed both a Thanksgiving and a Christmas special. (The Thanksgiving special is called Drunksgiving on the website.)

For the unfamiliar, the original Party Down South is like Jersey Shore with a twang.

And, because it is the South, there is a lot of talk of rednecks, America and the American way. Plus, there is mud and sliding on things and drinking, in and out of bars, and a variety of trucks and kegs and fights.

(Robinson said it helped him learn that "girls are so much crazier than guys".)

But, also apparently because it is the South, there are random prayers and group hugs, and Robinson easily engulfs his seven cast mates in a single wide embrace.

For those who missed the first incarnation of Party Down South, there were two seasons with the original cast. It turned out to be the highest-rated series in CMT history and a digital dynamo. It trended on Twitter throughout its run, peaking as a No. 3 trending topic.

Selzer said she hopes the new cast will resonate with the same audience, a demographic that she said recognizes the cast as people who could be from their own hometowns.

"There are a lot of shows that poke fun at people in the South," said Selzer, who is from Maryland. "That's not who we are, and that's not in our DNA." The network, which is available to 91 million American households, is based in Nashville. "It is all about celebrating the South and the rich traditions down there," she said.

It is not, however, universally loved. Ben Jones, best known for playing Cooter on the TV series The Dukes of Hazzard and who went onto be elected to Congress twice, blasted the original show in an open letter to CMT last year, calling it "cultural pornography" that "glorified drunken debauchery".

If the trailers are any indication, when Party Down South 2 begins with Robinson and company in Biloxi, Miss., the Kentucky big man will be at the center of much of the action.

Robinson, who is about a semester away from graduating and has a GPA higher than 3.0, is taking some time off from UK to promote the show. He said he hopes to someday teach and coach football

He isn't worried that his red Solo cup life, forever documented, could hinder his professional pursuits.

And as far as the bigger-than-life rowdy dude? He insists that he really is that guy.

The Hunter Robinson the world will meet in full Thursday night is not a media-ready creation like some WWE character.

Nope, he said, working on his second beer during a recent hourlong interview at Lexington's Campus Pub, the Hunter Robinson who bats a bar patron to the ground with a half-hearted swipe of one beefy paw is the same man-child talking about how he loves to be the life of a party.

(For all his size and his full beard, Robinson has a bit of a baby face and a childlike enthusiasm for beer and beer-related things.)

Before the show even aired, he secured a manager and a booking agent. There is money to be made from promotional appearances — mostly getting paid to party. Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino from Jersey Shore made at least $8.9 million. (Unfortunately, he neglected to pay taxes on that money and is facing prison time for fraud.)

Robinson said he's "blindly going along for the ride."

"If I could turn it into a career, that's cool. If I don't, ..." he shrugs his bulky shoulders.

So, for now, Robinson is taking life as it comes — one beer at a time.

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