History Channel // 2010 // 720 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // February 27th, 2011
The 16-Wheel Thrill of the Big Chill.
Get ready to traverse northern Alaska's chilly back roads and frozen rivers with the fourth season of The History Channel's Ice Road Truckers! *
Hauling immense cargo through some of the most treacherous terrain on God's green earth (or bitter winter ice ball, as it were), some of the most fearless drivers brave the elements to get the job done safely and in record time. Jack Jessie is the reigning king of the road whose mantle is put to the test; newbie Lisa Kelly -- one of the only female truckers on the road -- needs to prove her worth; Ray Veilleux, a newly out of work father and husband, has a lot to prove as well in his rookie season; and Hugh Rowland and Alex Debogorski continue their friendly, decades long rivalry in who can haul the most cargo through mother nature's worst storms. Be prepared to slide, crash, and speed through the fourth season of Ice Road Truckers!
I was stoked to sit through the fourth season of Ice Road Truckers; this is a show that I'd caught many a time in reruns on cable and each time I was sucked in to the plight of these often grizzled drivers on the snow covered roads and waterways of Alaska. "How cool a job is this?" I'd think to myself. There is just something really enticing about driving out in the middle of nowhere, just you against the elements...err, all experienced from the warmth and comfort of my living room couch. But I digress, for these drivers it doesn't get much more primal than that. Much like the superior Deadliest Catch -- because nothing and I mean nothing beats watching old sea salts dredge the ocean floor for giant crabs -- Ice Road Truckers feels very authentic.
While I'm often very skeptical about reality programming and the validity of their 'realism' (read: I think most of it is scripted out the wazoo), I have to admit that Ice Road Truckers appears to be a show that doesn't try to fudge with the reality of what these drivers are experiencing. When we see a large rig covered in blowing snow flipped over on its side on the shoulder of a desolate road, it's assumed that's for real. When the drivers start to freak out as their brakes give way or the road begins to eat them alive, there isn't a moment that looks staged or hokey (although considering the dangers, I question the idea of interviewing the truckers as they're driving in these harsh conditions). If nothing else, Ice Road Truckers certainly shows us a career choice that is fraught with dangers and deadly adventure at every turn.
The stars of Ice Road Truckers are likeable and appear to be your basic salt-of-the-earth folks. This is very good news since almost the entire show consists of A.) watching these real life protagonists and their trucks speed down the road or B.) listening to them be interviewed in the cabs of their vehicles. There is often a lot of grumpiness involved -- who wouldn't be a bit on edge when you're working in sub-zero weather and tickling the grim reaper at every curve? -- but mostly these drivers come off as hardworking blue collar guys (and gals) that are just trying to get their job done and earn an honest day's pay without plunging into the icy depths of Alaska's brutal rivers. I especially enjoyed watching Lisa's journey as she worked overtime to get the respect of the other drivers due to her gender (as she notes in one episode, "I've got to work twice as hard to get half the respect I want").
All of that being said, my biggest problem with Ice Road Truckers is that it's a show meant to be watched over weeks and months, not days. There are only so many times I can watch a truck blow down a mountain path or speed around a curve before my mind starts to wander over to what's going on with those pesky crab fishermen on the other channel. Fake out tension comes with the territory of reality TV -- you know, editing that makes it looks like something UNBELIEVABLY HORRIBLE is going to happen, tense music that announces the arrival of IMMINENT HORROR and then just as realize you CAN'T STAND THE UNBRIDLED TENSION...nothing really happens. Maybe a truck goes off the road or some mildly bad news arrives over the CB radio. That's about as exciting as it gets through most of the episodes. After a while the show's sometimes droning voice over becomes repetitive and mundane. As noted, if you are planning a marathon of Ice Road Truckers, I'd suggest spreading it out over weeks instead of days so as not to lose interest after the first few episodes.
I often wonder why it is that shows like Ice Road Truckers seem to capture our collective imaginations. It's not as if the basic execution of what these people do -- moving products from point A to point B -- makes for compelling television in and of itself. Much like Discovery's Deadliest Catch, what gets our blood pumping is living vicariously through the dangers, dreams, and families of the people involved with these shows. We see ourselves reflected in their hard work and even their flaws; Hollywood could take a lesson from the fact that glitz and glamour aren't always needed to tell a compelling story.
Ice Road Truckers: The Complete Season Four is presented in what appears to be 1.78:1 high definition 1080i widescreen (no mention is made on the package). I can't really sing this transfer's praises because there isn't a whole lot to it -- during the brightly lit day sequences the image looks very good (certainly better than DVD), but much of it is shot on often grainy, fuzzy or out of focus video cameras that hardly do the show justice. The soundtrack is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 in English and shares the same fate as the video presentation -- it works in conjunction with the show, but never shines very brightly (or loudly).
The only extra feature included on this 4-disc set is some additional footage from the show, which is a nice way of saying just more of trucks rolling down the highways and interviews with the participants.
Ice Road Truckers: The Complete Season Four is worth a look for reality show junkies and those interested in high pressured wilderness career opportunities.
* Sarah Palin not included.
Review content copyright © 2011 Patrick Naugle; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: History Channel
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080i)
* DTS HD 2.0 Master Audio (English)
Running Time: 720 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Bonus Footage
* Official Site