‘American Chainsaw,’ sawing wood
National Geographic offers up a snoozer of a reality show
November 26, 2012
As if we needed one more bit of evidence that reality TV is running out of ideas, we now have two shows about people who sculpt using chainsaws: CMT's "Chainsaw Gang," which premiered two weeks ago, and National Geographic's "American Chainsaw," premiering this Thursday, Nov. 29, at 10 p.m.
Although a small company that makes chainsaw sculptures is unusual, the show does its best to portray the goings-on as being basically the same as those on most other shows set in workplaces where things are made. The familiarity breeds tedium.
The company in question is run by a former truck driver who calls himself "the Machine Jesse Green." In the premiere episode, he and his crew are hired by Lori, who owns a witchcraft store in Salem, Mass., to create a dragon sculpture.
The process is presented using the worn-out template perfected by dozens of previous workplace reality shows: The team gets the assignment, they argue over details, a subordinate faces some mild hazing, a setback emerges and is surmounted, and, finally, the client loves the finished product.
In this episode, Missi, who handles the finishing on Jesse's sculptures, says she wants to step up and contribute more creatively; Jesse says it's hard for him to let his workers make major decisions.
Jesse lets Missi close the deal with Lori. Missi promises that the finished sculpture will be able to hold a large crystal ball in its mouth. Upon hearing this, Jesse tells Missi it's impossible, adding, "I would like to wring your neck."
We don't see him say that line, so it's possible it was added in post-production to provide a little extra drama.
The editing and music suggest that Missi ultimately triumphs in this story line. What we see onscreen suggests more or less the opposite. If this is subtle irony, it's too subtle.
Jesse's father, a former electrician who now works for him, tries to figure out a way to have smoke come out of the dragon's nostrils. This story line simply fizzles out.
At another point, Jesse's father and another co-worker watch in amusement as Brett, a young assistant, struggles with sweeping up some sawdust. To avoid spoilers, we won't say what happens next, but if the footage were on anyone's home camera, it would be too boring to keep.
We also see a scene in which Jesse climbs up on a pile of huge logs to saw off the piece he'll use to make the dragon. He assures us that he might get crushed if the logs shift. Like most such reality-TV warnings, this one turns out to be overly pessimistic.
Throughout, Jesse keeps pointing out things that Lori seems to have predicted when she read his tarot cards. He tries hard to convince us that he cares whether this is true.
When the producers were pitching this show, they probably described Jesse as a natural, which means he's completely unnatural. Talking to the camera, he over-emotes like a Food Network host describing America's 10 most outrageous sandwiches.
Jesse's excitement only underscores how little excitement most viewers will be experiencing. "American Chainsaw" is dull.
Tags: America, american chainsaw, american chainsaw review, Chainsaw Gang, cmt, dragon, food network, Machine Jesse Green, music, National Geographic, national geographic channel, premiere, reality, reality TV, review american chainsaw, tv, tv reviews
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