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Monday, July 27, 2009

ILL SUSPENSION OF DISBELIEF: Somehow, We're Missing Rick Yemm


As even casual Ice Road Truckers viewers will admit, Rick Yemm is an exceptionally easy guy to loathe. He's cocky. He's confrontational. He's arrogant. He habitually refers to himself as "Ice Road Rick" - with declarative, defensive emphasis, so it comes out like "I'M ICE ROAD RICK!!!" - a sobrequet he probably employs, shamelessly, as a pick-up line. Now, admittedly, hauling massive, oversized loads over slick, icy roads and frozen-yet-melting oceans requires a certain degree of self-confidence and ego; the men and women featured on this show are all slightly cracked. But most of them are able to keep their insanity in reserve, interacting easily with the paternaturally mild-mannered managers and supervisors whose jobs depend on their ability to coordinate the transport of trailers and humongous tires and machines as big as a McMansion through snow squalls and windstorms. Rick Yemm, on the other hand, drives these overseers to uncharacteristic fits of pique and violence - which might help explain why we haven't seen him on the current season of Ice Road Truckers. This season, the producers have shifted the action from far-flung Canadian ice-oceans to treacherous, winding mountain roads in Alaska; they've brought back gruff polar-bear Hugh and wisecracking salt-dog Alex (who was sidelined by medical issues halfway through the previous season) while introducing several new drivers. What this season really lacks is an anti-hero, an antagonist, some rancor. (Danger isn't enough; the show makes sure to drive home the point that these drivers are liable to slide off road and die in a cataclysmic fireball at any moment.) Ice Road Truckers needs Rick Yemm, if not a qualified substitute. Rick Yemm taunting cooll-hand-luke Jesse, chatting up thrill-seeker tomboy Lisa, swearing at hapless mechanics, freewheeling recklessly down dangerous grades, and just being the hardheaded jackass we love to hate.

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