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Monday, July 16, 2007

Hello, Pot? This is Kettle.

Today’s episode of Little Miss Know-it-All: Hey, you can’t do that! Misleading pictures are OUR business!

My American readers may have seen a new TV series about ice-road truckers. The series was filmed during the winter and follows truckers as they drive from Name of Town Withheld to the diamond mines several hundred miles away.

Ice roads are distinctly northern. I assume they have them in Alaska, too, but I think of them as Canadian. There are no permanent roads to many communities, so when the rivers and lakes freeze, they become temporary roads.

These roads are not hundred-mile ice slicks; they are built in a way that keeps vehicles from sliding around too much. However, there are always dangers: driving too fast or too close to another vehicle can weaken the road. Ice thickness is checked often to make sure that the road is as safe as possible. The road is flooded with water, then graded and flooded again to thicken the ice. When you drive over it, the road can jiggle up and down like Jell-O. Big trucks can jackknife or even fall right through the ice.

So I’m not surprised that producers would want to do a reality show about these truckers. They work in conditions harder than you or I could imagine. If their trucks break down and they have no heat, they can quickly freeze to death all alone on the ice.

The CBC, naturally, is interested in this show. I suspect that they wish they had had the idea first (something about a mandate to reflect Canada to Canadians), but in any case they are out of the running now. Instead, they’ve been interviewing people who worked on the show. I always like these interviews because I am a geek who likes to peer into the guts of programming.

During my morning coffee I was treated to an interview with the producer of the show. It was standard stuff until the interviewer established that the scary shots of trucks falling through the ice were not, in fact, shot by the production team while filming the show. That led to this question: Don’t you think that’s a bit misleading? I mean, the people who maintain that road take safety really seriously.

Hmmm. What an interesting question! You see, I’ve seen those images, too. Many, many times. I wonder who filmed those shots and who would be replaying them over and over on the supper-hour news. It couldn’t be CBC, could it? Definitely not – that would be misleading! It must have been the reality show’s production team. They probably also filmed the historical shots of people fixing giant scary-looking holes in the road years ago. The CBC would never mislead people into thinking that the road is unsafe and then re-sell the footage, especially not when the engineers who work on the road take safety really seriously. No, that’s what trashy reality-show producers do. Not the national broadcaster. They’re above all of that.