Monday, September 2, 2013

Highway Thru Hell: Welcome Back

Pssst! Want to have a great success with your reality TV series?
Well, make sure the word "hell" is somehow included.
Such as Hell's Kitchen, Hell On Wheels. Oh, I forgot to include Hotel Hell in there. And there must be others.
But my fave is Highway To Hell which returns for its second season Tuesday September 3 at 10 p.m. on Discovery.
This one is wholly Canadian and wholly exciting.
I was getting ready to enjoy Labour Day when I noticed the first season marathon all day on Discovery and I couldn't stop watching.
This series is firmly set on B.C.'s treacherous Coquihalla Highway which constitutes 100 kilometers of winding roads smack dab through the Cascade Mountains.
This show just wouldn't work in the summer.
Instead it deals with often deadly crashes in the fall and winter caused by inexperienced drivers who panic when confronted by blizzards, slippery roads and roaring semis.
The result can be a pile up of dozens of cars or flipped semis that burst into flames endangering hundreds of drivers who get piled up behind the accidents.
The episodes seem to be shot at night which is when the biggest pile ups happen.
And it is personified through the experiences of jovial veteran Jamie Davis and his Heavy Rescue team.
He has a skilled team behind him including skittish Scott Bird who retired at the end of the First Season but now wants to get back at it.
Then there's gnarled Old Bruce who has his own way of doing things --often antagonistic he surely is not a team player.
And what about Jamie's stepson Brandon who is of two minds whether he wants to really get involved in the trucking business.
The first season was a huge ratings winner for Discovery Canada over its nine hours. And this season there are 13 hours with as many thrills as ever.
First up there's a semi that veered off an icy highway and turned over --the owner wants the truck saved if possible meaning a huge shipment of lumber has to be hand packed and carried out before the rig can be pulled to safety.
But the second accident is truly spectacular --a rig crashed with a huge shipment of food containers catching fire and burning through the night in a seemingly never ending blaze that ties up the highway for hours.
I mean these situations are not set up. The capacity for the guys to get hurt seriously is always there.
And I'm wondering about the TV crew called out in dangerous weather conditions because this stuff could never be rehearsed.
Anyhow Davis is very camera savvy. He knows how to show concern for his guys and the rigs he must save.
And I like Highway Thru hell because, well, it's so Canadian. At the end of the first episode he's wondering how long this motley crew can make it before he starts making personnel changes.
Mark A. Miller produced it, Dan Johnson co-wrote it with Miller. Todd Craddock is the chief photographer. and the producing company is Great Pacific Television.
MY RATING: ***1/2.

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