Longtime readers of Eclipse will know that I loathe reality TV for the simple reason that the vast majority of it is anything but real – it’s edited into storylines that take reality and turn it into fiction. Well, that and the fact that most of it is exploitative in nature and reminds me of that whole lions vs. Christians thing from ancient Rome.
Now that I have reiterated where I’m coming from, let’s talk about History’s IRT: Deadliest Roads [Sundays, 10/9C]. This series takes three top Ice Road Truckers – Alex Debogorski, Lisa Kelly and Rick Yemm – and transplants them from the treacherous roads of Alaska to the unbelievable chaos that is the roads of India. No amount of editing could create the things we see here, and they are truly frightening.
The basic idea of IRT: Deadliest Roads is to take the best Ice Road Truckers and drop them into trucking assignments on the world’s most deadly roads. Truth in advertising and truth in the episodes. Simple, direct and effective.
Alex, Lisa and Rick [still sporting his blue mohawk] are given the assignment of delivering several tons of cement to an Indian dam-building project from the streets of Delhi. The route they must follow is part of the Silk Road trade routes that connected Central Asia to South Asia. The part they must traverse runs through the Himalayas and features such sections as the “Freefall Freeway,” where the trucks run alongside the mountain with a 700 ft. cliff just inches away on the other side. Then there’s “The Cutouts” – a section of road that has been cleared by blasting away just enough of the mountain to allow one vehicle at a time pass through, with a clearance of barely inches. Finally, there’s a series of a switchbacks – and the “Breakaway Bend,” where potholes are the least of the truckers’ worries – the road is actually crumbling and could actually give way under their wheels at any moment. But first, the truckers have to get out of Delhi, a city of 19 million – none of whom seem to know anything about any rules of the road.
Each trucker is assigned a spotter – think of them as sherpas – to help them navigate the route. The spotters speak little or no English, but know the roads of India as well as the truckers know those of their own countries. They can be the difference between being lynched getting out of India, or guiding tricks across a bridge that is falling apart.
The IRT: Deadliest Roads premiere doesn’t need to resort to editing tricks or manufactured plotlines to get an audience’s attention. The fear in Lisa’s eyes; the frustration Alex endures attempting to just get out of Delhi; Rick’s creative cussing as he faces the perils of both the roads and the craziness of Indian drivers [which doesn’t abate once they’re on the treacherous mountain roads] will be more than enough to do the trick.
The episode is shot pretty much straightforwardly, with some CG to show the differences between the truckers’ usual vehicles and the wooden framed Indian versions, and some possible worst case scenarios. Between the scenery [awe-inspiring at some points], the danger and the drivers, the premiere is riveting stuff.
Unfortunately, the show falls into the same trap we’ve seen before, where particular moments are run over and over again in an attempt to generate suspense that’s already been adequately built already. The repetition results in more of a distraction, and interrupts flow – which is something that takes away from the overall effectiveness of the episode. This sort of thing might be essential to a series like Big Brother and its ilk, but here it’s completely unnecessary – and keeps the show from being something that might keep a non-reality TV fan, like me, from coming back.
Overall, though, the premiere of IRT: Deadliest Roads stands head and shoulders above most reality TV because it is that rarest of rarities in the world of reality TV – real.
Final Grade: B