Posted in: Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on April 24th, 2012
“At the top of the world, there’s a job only a few would dare. The Ice Road Truckers are back..”
It was the peak of the 1970’s, and CW McCall was teaching ordinary people like us about Cabover Petes with reefers on and getting by those Smokeys. The man practically started a new genre of music with the hit song Convoy. The song was so popular that the backup band used their cut to start a little project of their own. They became Mannheim Steamroller and used the cash to cut their own music. The movies started giving us things like Smokey And The Bear. Truckin’ was in fashion, and a good time was had by all.
It’s over 30 years later, and the truckin’ fad has been in our rearview mirror for so long most of us don’t really think about it anymore. With the advent of the dangerous and extreme reality shows, I guess it was only a matter of time before somebody brought up trucks again. Leave it to the History Channel to take something I never thought for one second could be any more interesting than watching grass grow and hook me. But it does keep you hooked, and America’s been hooked for five seasons now.
In the show’s early years the drivers would tackle the ice roads of Canada. In the last couple of seasons the show moved to the Dalton Highway road in Alaska. Now the show has decided to combine these venues into the same season. We get some drives on the Dalton and some in Canada. That means two dashes for the cash and two winners at the end of the season.
We follow these drivers on some of the most dangerous roads on the continent. Sometimes they make it. Sometimes they break down or are stopped by severe weather conditions. The drivers aren’t paid by the hour. They get paid by completed hauls. That means if they fall even a handful of miles short, there’s no pay. As the show’s saying goes: “If the wheels aren’t turning, nobody’s earning.” You can imagine these guys don’t take delays gracefully.
From last season we have four returning drivers:
Lisa (Alaska): She’s a 28-year-old second-year driver who ends up being tougher than a lot of the guys. She’s just starting to get into the dangerous stuff, which this year included becoming a push driver. For extra heavy loads extra trucks are employed to push the load up the steep hills. She’s looking for respect in the toughest job on the haul road.
Alex (Canada): Alex is one of two Canadians from previous seasons of the show. Last year he had a heart attack while on the Canadian ice roads. Against his doctor’s advice, he’s back on the road, this time in Alaska, to try to prove he can still do it.
Hugh (Canada): He’s Alex’s rival from Canada. He calls himself the Polar Bear and is the arrogant one on the crew. He might have worn out his welcome at the haul road this season. Hugh just thinks that everything’s funny. “Oh I wrecked the trailer…HaHaHaHa”, “We’re lost, HaHaHaHa”, “A tanker exploded killing 18 school kids, HaHaHaHa” Okay I made that last one up, but you get the idea.
Rick Yemm (Canada): Rick is unmistakable in his blue Mohawk. He’s another Canadian who hasn’t been on the show since it moved to Alaska. Rick’s got a short temper that is going to be pushed to its limit here.
There are two new rookies added to the Dalton this season:
Dave: This guy is known back home as the “Alabama Slammer”, but here on the ice road he’s just a royal pain in the tush. He has 25 years under his belt, but you couldn’t tell with all of the rookie mistakes he makes. He also doesn’t work or play well with others. Always complaining. You’re watching just to see when his mouth is going to get him in a jam…and it often does.
Maya: She’s used to driving on the roads of New York. It’s going to take some adjusting to the ice roads. She’s personable and capable enough, but she does have a tendency to whine. Here’s a good drinking game for you. Take a shot every time she says “Oh my God” and you’ll be wasted in the first ten minutes of each episode.
Each episode of Ice Road Truckers is presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. Let’s be honest here. There’s not a lot of color. There is, however, a ton of white. But the white has many layers that I was astonished to discover handled quite nicely by this transfer. Black levels were deep and full of all kinds of shadow definition. There are some rather beautiful Alaskan vistas here that provide some stunning footage. A lot of the actual truck cameras are pretty much portables and deliver documentary-style footage.
The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0. Don’t look for much. It’s really a lot of dialog. The trucks come rushing through from time to time, but there’s not a ton of bottom end to this release. You can hear the talking. That’s about all that is expected from this kind of series.
Bonus Footage: (19:03) Rookie bios and additional time with the truckers on a variety of subjects.
Last season I thought it might actually be time to leave the Dalton for a new location. I knew that Hugh wouldn’t be back there, because the Carlisle guys pretty much said they didn’t want him back. He’s colorful enough that the show would want him back. Plus, it might have been time for a change of scenery. So now they gave us some variety, and I have to say the Dalton stuff is far more interesting to watch. I didn’t find the Canadian stuff near as compelling. Hugh and Rick are one-note, and Alex, while being a nice guy, just wears thin after too long. I hope the future seasons turn out more like the Dalton segments here. Maybe they’ll bring on another idiot like Dave. Dave “gives a new meaning to dropping your load”.