Thursday, March 5, 2015
Cold Water Cowboys : Reality TV Canadian Style
I can explain why I missed the entire first season of the delightful reality series Cold Water Cowboy.
I was recuperating from triple bypass surgery and my place of residence Toronto's Baycrest Hospital didn't have a modern TV service.
Meaning I couldn't get Discover even if I had wanted to.
So I'm new to the sophomore show which is wild and wacky but also educational in a strange way.
It was created by documentary film makers tyson Hepburn and John Driftmier and is a Canadian retort to such U.S. imports as Duck Dynasty.
Instead of wrestling crocs these intrepid stars of Cold Water Cowboys search the chilly northern seas for crabs and schools of halibut.
There's a lot of fun here but it's also very dangerous.
Co-producer Driftmier died while filming another Discovery reality outing in Kenya titled Dangerous Flights.
Part of the success of this show is the effortless history lessons --the plentiful cod fishery collapsed in 1992 and thousands of Newfoundlands fishermen faced bankruptcy.
Here we find it's one of the most dangerous professions in the world. Several times during the first hour it seems that a fishing boat may capsize in ocean swells or the boat may sink after springing a major leak.
And we come to look up to Captain Richard Gillett who simply won't give up no matter how dangerous it gets out there.
A real delightful touch is the use of subtitles throughout --the fractured English that's spoken is I am told closer to that of Shakespeare's day than contemporary Canadianisms.
And Gillett in the first hour I've seen emerges as a heroic personality --he'll bawl out crew members when needed.
The other profiled captains are Morris Antsey on Sebastian Sails, Conway and Rick Caines on Seadoo, Andre and Michelle Jesso on Wave and Paul Tiller on Atlantic Bandit which he has just renamed contrary to the traditions of the sea.
On one of the boats profiled her the crew have taken onboard a grinning youngster who desperately needs a new start after serving 10 months in the pen.
Look, I'm already aware of such competing series as Deadliest Catch and Wicked Tuna but I submit if we have to watch reality shows let them be Canadian ones.
The stage is very dramatic: it's been the worst winter Newfoundland has endured in 30 years.
There are ice jams everywhere and Captain Gillette has memories of dear friends who perished in other similar times.
The photography is superb. I really felt the guys were being placed in perilous situations.
But they do not grouse about their lot in life --they seem to embrace the dangers.
We see how they act as one to keep their ship from getting stuck in the ice jams --other boats have been scrunched up in similar situations.
"Not a job for slackers," jokes one veteran.
It's also a question of knowing where the lobsters asre going to be congregating --one boat makes the wrong decisions and those traps are almost barren.
"I'm going back to roofing," quips one disillusioned crew member.
And then there's the amazing new monster netting the size of 290 football fields that gets all tangled up and may have to be abandoned at a huge loss.
Of course on all these reality epics the ups and downs have to be somewhat manufactured.
If the crew gave up in the first new episode, well, there'd be no new season.
The collective philosophy is best summed up after one fiasco when the captain shouts :"Let's go fishing men!".
COLD WATER COWBOYS' SECOND SEASON PREMIERES ON DISCOVERY TUESDAY MARCH 10 AT 10 P.M.
MY RATING: ***1/2.