Spoiler Alert: There are aspects of this review which will spoil the surprises of Season Five.
Many have a perception that what they watch on Reality TV must be reality and what they watch on the History Channel, must be history, right? Right! The reality is that many are often duped by what is called “reality” and while screening Season Five of what in the past has been one of my favorite shows, Ice Road Truckers, I had some serious questions about that, and most came about by watching the events surrounding one of the show’s primary characters, Dave Redmon. One of the concerns I had was the reality of what appears to be production scripting in the life of a real person who just happens to be on a reality show. Fortunately, there is enough footage available that with a little effort, one can see the reality of how a television show may have just taken on, and used, the wrong person.
As to how the show is put together… while it is supposed to be reality television, Season Five is filled with entertainment and character development in such a way that one can’t help but wonder about the scripting of the program. It is beautifully shot, although it seems to have some letdowns when compared to previous seasons (especially the spinoff seasons of IRT: World’s Most Dangerous Highways). We have a unique cast of characters, made up of real people; unfortunately, some we like, and others we don’t. When realizing that we are watching unscripted television, one may become frustrated at the direction the program takes as much of it just doesn’t make sense. That said, I was personally still drawn to keep watching.
This season of IRT has a different flair from the past. We see one crew driving for the Carlile Transportation Systems group, on a route generally known as the Dalton Highway from Fairbanks, Alaska to Prudhoe, Alaska, and another group driving in Canada, from Winnipeg to various remote communities. Through the course of this we see conflict between Dave Redmon, a new driver appearing previously in IRT: World’s Most Dangerous Highways, and his employers and co-drivers, especially Tony, a clear favorite within the company he works for, despite his tendencies to be late and follow his own schedule. We also see in the Winnipeg group where two drivers, Hugh and Rick, team up and enter into what could be considered a race between the tortoise and the hare with the third driver in the region, Alex. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how one views this series, we move from the excitement and danger of the roads themselves, (in some ways the stars of previous seasons) to the characters behind the wheels of the various trucks on the road.
When seeing what transpires in this series (especially with Dave Redmon, a driver from Alabama with over 25 years of experience), I begin to wonder early on in the series if this man was being treated fairly, and if, in fact, this reality show could be doing more harm than good for the man. I knew he wasn’t an actor, and the way he was being presented and portrayed, in all likelihood, just wouldn’t work in most societies. In looking close enough, it became apparent: the editing process was not presenting him well. If, however, one put oneself in his place, doing the work he was doing, one would likely find oneself feeling and acting more like Dave than one might realize.
Unfortunately, in life we are often misunderstood, taken advantage of, and put at the mercy of the actions of others. How we respond to it is often the measure of who we are and what we can accomplish, to a point. It is often said, “Don’t let another impact your situation.” That is easy for one who has a measure of wealth and independence, but not for many who are at the mercy of others, whether an employer or a situation. It is easy to use words like “be strong” and “persevere,” but for most, words do not always allow one to escape a situation.
This season of IRT shows what appears to me as an injustice in the way it represents, portrays, and impacts the life of one of its characters. Yet he won’t allow himself to be anyone other than who he is. He speaks up for himself and often goes off and does things his own way. That is another reality of the world we live in: even when one is effective at what one does and produces results, others will not necessarily want or allow us to do things other than the way they want.
I love that my faith allows me freedom and the opportunity to find peace. There are places of solitude where we can find peace with who we are and what we have done. The inconsistency and onscreen antics of others in this show (especially regarding the driver Tony Molesky, and his tendency to be late, and have other drivers consistently wait on him) were just as atrocious as Dave’s antics. What is true regarding either driver is hard to understand or know as we the viewers of the program can easily lose confidence in the reliability of the story we are being shown. Unfortunately, we live in a world that isn’t always fair, but that shouldn’t be a cliché we blindly accept; we should also accept, appreciate, and understand the beauty of individuality.
Season Five is intriguing television. I honestly don’t see it as reality television though. It is far more scripted than I would like and I don’t especially like the path it takes in the way it presents its characters. Unfortunately, while worth watching, it is the type of season that could play havoc on future seasons. Not because the characters in the show aren’t worth watching (in fact, they are), and it isn’t because there was less danger this season than in seasons past; it is because of the way the producers of the show chose to go with the characters and how they chose to impact their lives with what they thought would be best for the show, thus taking it from Reality TV into something that many other programs have done in the past. These types of actions have likely led to less appreciation for Reality TV; it certainly kept Season Five from being an enjoyable show in the end. When someone who can clearly drive the ice roads above the Arctic in far less time in a superior way over other drivers isn’t appreciated, one has to question, what is this show really about? If in fact there really is a Dash for the Cash prize or competition of some kind then the producers of this show would bring back Dave Redmon for another season to prove that he was in reality the most effective and best driver on the show. Outside of working with the film crew in the truck (where we also see some conflict), driving really is a solitude type of job, while there are others on the road. To rob a man of his individuality when he does his job effectively just doesn’t seem right to me; but since when did any of us really expect what was right from a Reality Television program?
While there are some decent DVD special features with this product, I couldn’t help but miss out on the obvious inclusion, which is a follow up on the dispute between Dave, the Carlile Company, and Tony. There are some outtakes and some interesting things, but while appreciated, even they fall a little short in content for me.