Case Number 17998: Small Claims Court


History Channel // 2009 // 611 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge James A. Stewart (Retired) // January 4th, 2010

The Charge

"We're waiting with bated breath to see what the next situation is going to be." -- Alex

Opening Statement

While Alex isn't rushed to the hospital this season, Ice Road Truckers: The Complete Season Three has its share of cliffhangers, as the truckers battle weather, moose, dangerous roads, and equipment breakdowns.

There's a change of venue as Hugh Rowland and Alex Debogorski start over again as rookies in Fairbanks, Alaska, to ferry supplies to the oil rigs at Prudhoe Bay. Mostly they'll be on an icy road -- the James W. Dalton Highway -- with stretches known by names like the Rollercoaster and Avalanche Alley. They work alongside four American truckers -- veterans Jack Jessee and George Spears, and youngsters Lisa Kelly and Tim Freeman -- as they learn to navigate the dangerous Dalton.

In case you're worried about it, the last stretch is an actual ice road. You still get plenty of ominous narration as well.

Facts of the Case

Ice Road Truckers: Season Three features thirteen episodes on four discs:

Disc One
* "Deadliest Ice Road"
On Opening Day, Jack moves the season's first heavy load, George mentors family friend Tim, and Alex and Hugh arrive in Fairbanks. A rescue crew heads to an accident scene, and trucks are readied for the icy road.

* "Rookie Run"
Jack is stopped with a "tail heavy" load, Alex and Hugh take drug tests, and an overturned truck is recovered.

* "Canadian Invasion"
Jack performs a roadside rescue, Lisa puts the tire chains on to haul a load of tires, Alex and Hugh train for the road, and a bulletin warns of a storm.

* "Blinding Whiteout"
Jack's on the road during the whiteout, Lisa's pilot car is disabled, and Hugh "makes a desperate downshift" to avoid hitting another trucker.

Disc Two
* "Accident Alley"
Lisa has brake problems, Hugh hauls paperwork, and Alex picks the wrong gear. Meanwhile, a policeman investigates a crash scene.

* "Arctic Ice"
Safety officer Phil Kromm has his own accident, Alex gets ahead of Hugh for once, Lisa strives to be the first "heavy haul woman," and stolen tire chains mean that Tim is "barefooting" back to Fairbanks.

* "Wicked Weather"
Tim and George attempt to reach Deadhorse before a storm, Hugh hauls toxic waste, and Phil holds a barbecue during an unplanned stop.

Disc Three
* "Killer Pass"
Hazards include a record snowfall, passing on a dangerous curve, a wrecked tanker, ice fog, and pranks.

* "Turn and Burn"
A faulty taillight and blowing snow trouble Tim, Hugh's log book troubles the inspector, and sheep block the road for Lisa and Jack.

* "Ocean Run"
Jack hauls liquid; Lisa, George, and Tim make a three-truck convoy; a backhaul means extra cash for Alex; and caribou block the road for Hugh and Phil.

Disc Four
* "Busted Parts & Breakdowns"
Lisa takes on a passenger stranded by the air traffic shutdown after Mount Redoubt erupts, and they both are stranded by a fuel leak. Meanwhile, Hugh has an exhaust problem.

* "Race for the Finish"
Spring brings new hazards, such as sleet, rain, and snow over ice. Lisa's hauling explosives, and a plow tows Jack.

* "Arctic Thaw"
George gets ready for his last haul before retirement, Hugh and Lisa both have brake problems, Tim makes his first solo run, and Jack heads for a remote island.

The Evidence

How many times can you show a special-effects shot of a truck plunging over a cliff? A lot, actually. There's also way too much of the announcer's urgent, ominous narration ("An ice road trucker's nightmare -- no brakes and slick roads!"). After watching a big batch of Joe McDoakes shorts a few weeks ago, I was thinking of this guy as an insane version of Joe's ever-present omniscient know-it-all narrator. Not a good sign. Surprisingly, what goes on between the narration and the bogus crash footage is calmer than in past seasons.

Sending Hugh and Alex to Alaska means the two Canadian truckers are rookies again, learning from veteran Stateside drivers. Although Hugh's still up to some antics -- his clash with truck inspectors is hilarious and he chafes at riding in a convoy -- even the Polar Bear is quieted by a tough challenge. Fatalistic Alex, who struggles with tire chains, also seems humbled by the Alaskan highway, at least for this year.

Learning seems to be the theme this season, with George's friendly mentoring of Tim, who's continuing in the family business, as the centerpiece. Tim gets hit with just about everything -- a rougher-than-usual winter, stolen tire chains, mechanical breakdowns -- as he keeps going, possibly motivated more by expenses than the challenge of the Dalton. George seems confident that his trying rookie season is forging a hardy trucker. There's another "upstart," as the narrator puts it, in second-year Dalton trucker Lisa. She strives to be "the first heavy haul woman," so she's pushing hard.

There's also more to learn about Arctic trucking for viewers at home, as the show follows avalanche crews, shows how mechanics test and patch tires, and recalls the history of the Dalton. Occasionally, as when snow and ice freeze up Lisa's brakes or a pickup passes Alex and then suddenly stops, risking a collision, you might even get a glimpse of a winter driving problem you should look out for yourself.

The show looks good for the most part, with the filming conditions occasionally producing shaky camera work or hard-to-read night scenes. Subtitles go under any dialogue that might be hard to hear, but it's mostly clear anyway.

There's a half-hour of bonus features that are interesting and informative, covering a dozen topics. Transportation crew camps, the ice road meteorologist, a long-distance walker, crosses at fatality sites, Lisa Kelly, Coldfoot camp, camera work in extreme conditions, tire chains, mechanics, a review board hearing, and two breakdowns are discussed.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

With a quieter season of learning ahead for the truckers, the first two episodes actually seem slow at times, and Hugh and Alex cracking jokes about the drug test didn't do much to liven things up. Once you get past the slow start, though, Ice Road Truckers: The Complete Season Three is pretty interesting.

Closing Statement

Sending Hugh and Alex out onto the Dalton turned out to be a good move for Ice Road Truckers in Season Three. I'm not sure where the producers will send them next year -- Siberia, perhaps? -- but they'll have to work hard to come up with a Season Four to match it. Giving them a new challenge, and then introducing young truckers Lisa and Tim, made the show more about facing challenges and rooting for the newbies than simply "What's going to happen next?" Although the production sometimes got in the way in the form of overdone narration and special effects, it turned out to be a good show.

The Verdict

Not guilty, although you might want to wait till spring to check it out.

Review content copyright © 2010 James A. Stewart; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Judgment: 90

Perp Profile
Studio: History Channel
Video Formats:
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)

* English (CC)

Running Time: 611 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks
* Bonus Footage

* IMDb

* Official Site