‘Airport 24/7: Miami,’ don’t remind us
Travel Channel show has one major drawback, its subject
October 2, 2012
Sometimes people praise a realistic TV show or movie by saying that it's "just like being there."
The problem with the Travel Channel's new documentary series "Airport 24/7: Miami" is that nobody wants to be at an airport. At times the show evokes too well the usual emotions we experience when getting on and off planes, namely frustration, anxiety and boredom. But the show also contains moments of mild danger and action, making each episode, on balance, moderately entertaining.
Premiering tonight with two episodes at 9 and 9:30, the series is shot at Miami International Airport, which, according some opening graphics that list various statistics, is busy and getting busier all the time. It follows an assortment of workers who help people and goods get through the airport.
In the first episode, we learn about the logistics involved in emptying and then reloading a huge passenger jet in 140 minutes and see people trying to carry the wrong sort of things onto planes and into the country. The show doesn't strain to create suspense or drama; it accordingly creates little of either.
In the former plotline, a Lufthansa A830 is scheduled to turn around quickly. But someone allows the cleaning and catering people on the plane before the customs people have a chance to inspect it. So the cleaners and caterers have to get off. This isn't exactly a scene from the next "Die Hard" sequel.
Meanwhile, 10 passengers haven't shown up to take their places. The airline workers actually spread out through the terminal to find them. This moment manages to be both undramatic and unbelievable. Most airlines seem eager to take off before late-arriving passengers can get to the gate.
The best part of the story is watching the cheery guy in charge of draining the plane's toilets, using a huge hose that has to be tightened very carefully.
The security sequences are a bit more interesting. A foreign man is detained because he seems to have hidden a knife in a hollowed-out compartment in his sneaker. Though it's cool to see an actual potential terrorist caught in the act, the denouement is dull.
Then we learn that the rest of the passengers will have to undergo extra scrutiny. Rather than thinking about what will happen to the suspected terrorist, we start to feel sorry for those poor saps stuck in the waiting area.
In the second episode, a drug-sniffing dog smells something suspicious in a shipment of tractor parts that arrived on a cargo plane. Some of the parts are suspiciously light, so customs officers drill into them. This is pretty cool.
We get to know several airport workers, all of whom seem like nice people even if they don't all exude competence and reliability. In the second episode, a security person beams as she describes how she's helping a soldier who is returning from overseas duty surprise his girlfriend. What seems like an avoidable mix-up threatens to ruin the moment entirely.
After a spectacular car accident that unfortunately happens off camera, a man who is picking up his wife is rushed to the hospital. A highly placed manager leads the search for the woman.
This doesn't go smoothly. At one point, they page the wrong person.
With the judicious use of cutaways, goofy soundtrack music and sound effects, this show could be played for laughs. Presented straight, it too often makes us think of our own past missed connections and delays.
The title "Airport 24/7: Miami" suggests that the producers hope they can turn this series into a franchise, even though any traveler can tell you that airports are frighteningly similar the world over. The series is better than being there, but one version is definitely enough.
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