History Channel // 2009 // 611 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Victor Valdivia (Retired) // October 26th, 2009
The most dangerous frontier in history.
What's worse than sitting through the first season of Ax Men? Sitting through Ax Men: The Complete Season Two. History's singularly wretched reality series that purports to reveal the hard truths about logging is, like most of History's recent reality-style programming, a total sham. It's really about what most reality TV is about: producer-contrived artificial bickering and tension, with fancy editing and camera effects to boot. The first season was merely tedious, but this one is tedious and unpleasant. Ax Men has become so phony that it has about as much to do with the reality of logging as an episode of Sons of Anarchy does.
What's so different? Well, this season, Ax Men decides to shake things up. Apparently, producer/narrator Thom Beers accepted the criticism that thirteen episodes of four logging companies that do the same exact things over and over again is probably a mite repetitive. True, two companies from last season, J.M. Browning and Pihl, return this season. There's also a new company, Rygaard, that's pretty much the same as those two. Granted, Rygaard is run by a father-and-son team of obnoxious blowhards, as opposed to Mike Pihl, the sole obnoxious blowhard who runs Pihl, or even Jesse Browning, the obnoxious blowhard who's the son of J.M. Browning, so there's that. This season, however, you'll get to see different types of logging. There's R & R Conner Aviation, a "heli-logging" company from Montana that uses a helicopter to carry logs to the shipping trucks. That's even less interesting than it sounds. The other new addition is S&S Aqua Logging, a father-and-son team who fish logs out of rivers and lakes and then sells them for profit. That barely qualifies as "logging," but after one episode you'll understand why Beers and his crew chose them: the father, Jimmy Smith, is an abusive screamer who calls his son every insult he can think of while making him do all the work. In other words, he's good TV. Gosh, however did Beers get the idea that putting loathsome cretins on his show might increase ratings? He's so smart!
Smith isn't the only reality show contrivance drafted especially for this season. In order to maximize the screaming and yelling so integral to good reality TV (which is what the History Channel is well known for, after all), Beers and company have also brought in a greenhorn logger named Brad to work for the Rygaard crew. Brad isn't from the Pacific Northwest and has never been a logger, but he is a pretty college boy from California who whines incessantly about every single task he's asked to do. Isn't that why you watch this show? Compared to these new showboats, even the returning "stars" from last season seem to try too hard. Jesse Browning admits that he feels bad that he came off last season as a tantrum-throwing jackass. So he does his best this season to, well, come off like an even bigger tantrum-throwing jackass; he even yells at the camera crew twice, in two completely separate episodes, to stop filming him, although he does make sure to throw things first. As for Mike Pihl, he does his part, picking fights with Dwayne and Dustin Dethlefs, the rowdy father-and-son team of tree cutters who work for him when they're not storming off in a huff, but these are mere trifles. To add to the overall hysterics, Beers continues his irritating habit of over-the-top narration ("If he's not lucky, he could face death at any moment!") but also adds an even more unwelcome new technique: fancy camera shots that suggest some loggers' POV, complete with distortions, weird colors, and jerky zooms. Oh, and there's also the silly "competition" in which each company's log hauls are totaled and compared, which is totally meaningless since each company uses different techniques to acquire and measure its loads.
Then again, who could possibly care? Ax Men deserves its place alongside other reality show drivel like The Hills and Keeping Up With the Kardashians because as an educational or historic show, it's utterly worthless. Though History has packaged the show decently -- thirteen episodes over four discs, nice-looking 1.78:1 non-anamorphic transfer, nice-sounding Dolby 2.0 stereo mix, and some additional footage (30:51) -- don't waste your money on it. If you're really interested in logging, you'd be better off picking up a children's book about Paul Bunyan; it wouldn't be any more unrealistic than this crap.
So very guilty.
Review content copyright © 2009 Victor Valdivia; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: History Channel
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 611 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Bonus Footage
* Official Site