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Ice Road Truckers: The Complete Season Three(TV) (2009)
In Prudhoe Bay (250 miles north of the Arctic Circle), a network of ice roads in the tundra crisscross river systems and open ocean to connect America’s booming North Slope oil fields to dry land. Every winter, truckers have less than three months to shuttle critical supplies over the ice. The only problem is there’s just one way to get to this remote location: 400 miles of ice-covered, mountainous terrain known as the Dalton Highway. The Dalton is the lifeline to Alaska’s oil industry. It’s also the most dangerous road in North America and has claimed the lives of more than 400 people since it was built just 30 years ago. The next chapter in the hit HISTORY™ series returns this season with veteran drivers Hugh Rowland and Alex Debogorski, new drivers (including the show’s first female trucker) and more heart-stopping adrenaline than ever before
For more about Ice Road Truckers: The Complete Season Three and the Ice Road Truckers: The Complete Season Three Blu-ray release, see Ice Road Truckers: The Complete Season Three Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on June 26, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Lisa Kelly, Hugh Rowland, Alex Debogorski, Jack Jesse
Narrator: Thom Beers
» See full cast & crew
Ice Road Truckers: The Complete Season Three Blu-ray Review
'Ice Road Truckers' moves to Alaska for an exciting, if often predictable, third season.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, June 26, 2010
Cable television has become a carnival ride of "high concept" series that tend to focus on unusual behaviors (Hoarders: Buried Alive), situations (I Survived), advice (What Not to Wear), genetic abnormalities (Little People, Big World) and more often than not unusual career paths. I guess you might put survival experts like Bear Grylls and Les Stroud in that last category, but one of the more unique career-oriented series that cable has helped flourish is the "you know everything about the show by its title" outing Ice Road Truckers. Now in its fourth season on The History Channel, Ice Road Truckers follows the arctic exploits of a group of long haul truckers who manage to make their living (and quite a living, too, in some cases) driving some of the most treacherous highways and byways on the planet. While there's constant dread and foreboding lying just beneath the icy surface of Ice Road Truckers, if truth be told there's not a lot of surprises with any given individual episode: we get inclement weather, the occasional nasty crash, and a lot of close calls with near-accidents, as a crew of drivers attempts to deliver supplies and goods to incredibly remote locations. But the series has still managed to be unusually involving, due mostly to the odd and sometimes endearing cast of characters it has assembled over the years. Ice Road Truckers started as a one-off episode on Suicide Missions in 1999, but it wasn't until an astonishing (in television's quick turnaround terms) eight years later that the regular series debuted in 2007, setting ratings records for the History Channel, and becoming one of its first regular high-def broadcasts. While the first two seasons of the show concentrated on Canadian ice roads, Season 3 of Ice Road Truckers moves to the very northernmost climes of the United States, the frigid region of Alaska from Fairbanks to Prudhoe Bay. With a couple of holdover drivers from previous seasons and a handful of new drivers (including the series' first female trucker), Ice Road Truckers may be driving down a well-worn path, but it still manages to eke out a surprising amount of drama and interest within the confines of its own premise.
This third season of Ice Road Truckers focuses on the trucking contractor of Carlile Transportation, which hires the drivers to haul on the Dalton Highway, a 414 mile piece of engineering marvel built in the mid-1970's originally to get supplies up north for the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System. While the first stretch of the Dalton is indeed paved, the bulk of the road is crafted from ice by the Alaska Department of Transportation, which is seen in the opening episode of the season spraying voluminous amounts of water onto a plowed clearing in order to create the ice road. This is a highway of incredible extremes, with grades of up to 12% and a number of hairpin turns which just happen to be at some of the road's narrowest points. Adding to the remoteness of the location is the fact that there are only three towns (really encampments of just a handful of people) along the route from Fairbanks to Prudhoe Bay. The road has claimed virtually one person for each of its miles just in the past few years, so this is not a "trumped up" case of danger being manufactured for Ice Road Truckers. In fact some of the footage of one of the hilliest segments, nicknamed the Roller Coaster, may be enough to cause vertigo in some viewers. The series also doesn't shy away from showing several accidents, albeit they are usually accompanied by overly portentous sounding narration. The voiceover seems especially hyperbolic when it turns out one trucker caused his own crash by taking his eyes off the road to reach for something on his dashboard.
Luckily the series regulars are a bit more competent than that hapless fellow. Ice Road Truckers veterans Hugh "The Polar Bear" Rowland and Alex Deborgorski (back from a near-fatal pulmonary embolism) are joined by a host of new drivers. We have Jack Jessee, a Virginia native who specializes in hauling extremely wide and heavy loads; George Spears, an older driver experienced in Alaska who is getting ready to retire, but who is using his experience to help train newcomer Tim Freeman, Jr., a kid who comes from a long line of truckers and is trying to prove himself on the Dalton; and Lisa Kelly, Ice Road Truckers' first female regular and this season's shot in the arm, casting wise. While all the truckers have individually interesting stories, Kelly is simply a hoot, for wont of a better word, a daredevil, fast talking gal who also happens to be extremely attractive. She's out to prove this "boys' club" needs to be co-ed, and she frankly does a damned good job of it, actually tying for second by season's end in the number of trips completed.
There's no denying that there's a certain sameness to a lot of Ice Road Truckers, though this season does manage to shake things up a bit with a new, more treacherous location and these new drivers. While it's typical to get a slew of bad weather on any given Ice Road Truckers, this season has the additional fury of the eruption of Alaska's volcanic Mount Redoubt, which temporarily shut down air traffic and stopped the oil refineries. This makes the Carlile truckers the far north's only lifeline of supplies and adds a good deal of stress to the drivers' already hectic lives. Several episodes feature the requisite close calls, with skidding trucks, near head-on collisions and the more mundane problems of fatigue and "highway hypnosis" all rearing their ugly heads. One of the failings of the series is the amped up emphasis on some of these travails, as real as they may be. There are only so many times you can see a "near death" experience before you realize you're being played a bit for a chump if you become too emotionally invested in the supposed drama.
Where Ice Road Truckers excels, however, is in its smaller moments with each of these drivers. Freeman has an unlucky season and it's actually touching to hear him touch base with his trucker father, lamenting his problems and wondering if he's up to the task of making it through the Dalton's challenges. The human element is especially strong with Deborgorski, who's battling back from his health issues and fighting to maintain a dangerous career to support his very large family. Spears and Jessee are the old pro's here, and may not have the heart tugging emotional pull of the first two truckers, but they provide the experiential gravitas, as low key as they both are a lot of the time. That leaves Kelly to be the hell raiser and barn burner, and she fulfills both roles effortlessly. The fact that she's back for the currently airing fourth season of the series can't be mere coincidence.
Ice Road Truckers, like the similarly themed Deadliest Catch (which is handled by the same production company), does very well within the confines of its premise, following truckers on a limited timeframe working under extremely adverse conditions. While it falls into the trap of creating angst and drama when it really doesn't have to, it overcomes that tendency with a strong cast of really appealing drivers. While the series' demographic may get an adrenaline rush out of the danger aspect, it's really the human side of the stories where Ice Road Truckers breaks through the cliché-strewn world of its cable television origins.
Ice Road Truckers: The Complete Season Three Blu-ray, Video Quality
Ice Road Truckers looks great with its AVC encoded 1080i image in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. This is a show that presents quite a bit of post-processed shots, so some of the night footage and "recap" moments are intentionally grainy with blown out contrast. The bulk of the show, even when it's been filtered to contain slightly weird looking tints, is usually sharp as a tack, with excellent detail and great contrast. This is especially impressive in the many shots of snow on snow, where whites never bloom and individual flakes flying in front of an inchoate background are surprisingly clear and easy to see. Also very impressive are the many night sequences, some of them in blizzard conditions, where detail is at the very least noticeable, itself remarkable considering the filming conditions. On camera "confessionals" are probably the best looking segments of Ice Road Truckers, as they are most likely filmed under the best possible circumstances, but all in all, considering the unbelievably remote location work that this season of Ice Road Truckers is compiled from, this is a great looking quasi-documentary series.
Ice Road Truckers: The Complete Season Three Blu-ray, Audio Quality
It's great to see a lossless audio option on a "mere" television series, albeit a stereo mix presented via DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0. This is a pretty robust sounding track for television, with an awesome sounding low end that rumbles out of the gate with great regularity. Everything from the overpowering thunder of the trucks' engines to the sound of avalanches roaring down hillsides is presented with an attention-grabbing low end. There's also some fun LFE in one episode when an old mortar shell unit from the Korean War is used to bring down some avalanches. Both the omnipresent narration and the onscreen dialogue (actually frequently monologues by individual truckers addressed directly to the camera) are all presented cleanly and crisply. There's not a lot of stereo separation here, but even with a centric soundfield this is a great sounding series with an unusually robust dynamic range. This isn't a soundtrack that will "wow" most audiophiles, but it's a good solid piece, especially for a documentary television series.
Ice Road Truckers: The Complete Season Three Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The only bonus per se is "additional footage" included in the episodes. I frankly didn't catch all of Season Three's episodes when they aired, and so didn't notice anything that struck me immediately as being "new and improved."
Ice Road Truckers: The Complete Season Three Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Ice Road Truckers manages to maintain a significant amount of interest even as it plies familiar territory. The new location and some appealing new drivers help in that regard, but there's still too much emphasis on near misses and "almosts". This series would do better to focus more intently on the personal stories of the drivers and let the danger just be there, as it is naturally, in their everyday lives.
Ice Road Truckers: Other Seasons
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