Crazy Americans – A review of the A&E Channel Australia

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 27th November 2012.

A new channel recently popped up on my pay TV. Called A&E Australia, it appears to run nothing but weird American reality programs aimed at men, starring weird Americans. I did a little research and apparently this is a spinoff from America’s A&E Channel, which began in the eighties as the Arts and Entertainment Network. I find this interesting because there is certainly nothing airing at the moment which would fall under the category of the arts, and the entertainment jury is still out.

To be fair, I made a point of sampling A&E and it was strangely hypnotic. The programming is incredibly consistent. The protagonists of every show are male. The women that appear in said shows are generally portrayed as nags. Every commercial break is initiated by an overdramatic cliffhanger that is usually revealed as a complete non-event after the ads. However, one show seamlessly blends into another and before you know it, a two hour reviewing session leads to a week on the sofa.

Here are my recommendations for a great brain-free evening in front of the A&E Channel (being awake is optional).

My pick of the bunch needs to be Ghost Adventures, which bizarrely aired previously on W, a now defunct channel aimed at women. Three idiots travel around the world with the sole purpose of being locked overnight in some of the most haunted locations. Once inside, they turn off the lights and proceed to investigate using an array of the most unscientific “scientific” equipment ever.

I have no idea why they insist on turning the lights off wherever they go. None of the eyewitnesses report the ghostly happenings occurring in pitch black. And if ghosts indeed exist, do you think they would care if the lights are off? I suppose it just makes for better television to see the investigators fumble around in the dark. Each episode uncovers spooky dismembered voices making contact with non-specific messages such as, “Help me” and “Pass the peanut butter”.

Ice Road Truckers follows the trials and tribulations of the crazy drivers who deliver supplies to remote parts of Alaska or Hoth or somewhere icy by taking their loads across frozen lakes. Just as every movie featuring a frozen lake requires someone to fall through the ice, the truckers regularly find themselves in trouble when and where the ice gets a little thin. Alone in the snowy wilderness with half a truck under the ice? What should you do? Maybe ask for help from the twenty man television crew following you around.

Mountain Men focuses on men who choose to live in isolation out in the backwoods in Alaska or Hoth or somewhere. Perhaps if they ordered less stuff from ebay they wouldn’t put the Ice Road Truckers’ lives at risk to deliver it to them. Anyway, the men live off the land by eating squirrels and pinecones. Living so far away from the modern world brings a unique series of obstacles and challenges: bears, wolves, wampas and twenty man television crews following you around.

My final recommendation comes in the form of Barter Kings.  In this gem, two entrepreneurs trade objects for a living. With no cash changing hands, they usually start with a small object such as a TV and trade their way up to a much more valuable item. Supposedly these guys are professional cashless traders, which begs the questions, exactly how do they get their groceries, and how is it possible that they appear to be so filthy rich? Surely you can’t trade your way to a mansion for your wife and three kids complete with speedboat and pool without spending a cent? I’ve done my research and it is possible. He used to have four kids.


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