Big Bad Wood to Premiere on National Geographic
The awkwardly named docu-series follows four teams of tree fellers who work in the Boston area.
Yet another new Boston-based reality show is hitting the small screen tonight, and it bridges the gap we’ve so desperately been waiting to be filled between the success of Boston’s Finest (which returns for season 2 in November), and the disasters that were A&E’s Southie Rules, VH1’s Wicked Single, and ABC’s The Vineyard.
Don’t let the first three minutes of the pilot fool you, because Big Bad Wood follows in the footsteps of Massachusetts-based docu-series Wicked Tuna. Both shows were produced for National Geographic, and while the title “Big Bad Wood” certainly raises eyebrows, the content of the show reflects the thoughtful and educational tone of NatGeo.
Big Bad Wood follows four teams of tree fellers who work in the Boston area, chopping down trees for reasons ranging from safety to vanity. (They answer the question: Who can you call when a tree is dumping leaves into your pool?)
In the premiere episode, “Boston Tree Party,” we meet the crews of American Climbers, Specialized Rigging & Tree Care, All Season Tree Service, and Tree Tech. The urban tree cutters tackle different projects in the area, and we learn about their methods for taking down big wood.
American Climbers: The owner of American Climbers, Rich, describes his company as the cowboys of the tree cutting industry. “Those jobs that no one else wants? We get in and get it done.” The job they try to get done in the pilot is cutting down a 100-year-old 70-foot box elder—literally a tree stuck between a house and hard place (power lines). The wild card is the car parked right next to the tree. Spoiler alert, this happens, and it’s dramatic:
Specialized Rigging & Tree Care: “Specialized” because they do everything by hand, the team works on felling a 100-foot white pine in Walpole leaning toward a family’s home. We meet Jay, the owner, and his newest employee Ted, the greenhorn whom Jay hired after the two met at a bar. (Because if you’re looking for someone to handle a chainsaw, you naturally go pick up a guy at the bar.) Ted’s inexperience is the viewers’ gain—as he learns the ins and outs of tree felling, so do we.
All Season Tree Service: If any part of Big Bad Wood reminds us of Wicked Single, it’s when we meet “mom-and-pop shop” All Season Tree Service. Goat, an employee of the company of 30 years, hasn’t shown up for work. Instead, he’s still drunk from the night before, and when owner Brian tries to send him home, Goat takes a swing at him and the two have a quick skirmish in a parking lot. It doesn’t end well for Goat, who’s fired and sent on his way. The team slowly but surely cuts down a few maples in Brockton.
Tree Tech: True to its name, Tree Tech uses more heavy machinery (a big crane in the premiere) than the other teams. John, the foreman, is a former marine who runs a tight ship. His dynamic with the climber on his team, Nick, is fun to watch since Nick is a total class clown who engages in aerial acrobatics when he’s hoisted high up into a tree (also fun to watch). The team tackles a tree in Foxboro that is shedding pine needles into a pool and clogging its filter.
At the end of the episode, you have to admit: what these guys do is indeed dangerous, and it’s an important job that homeowners need to get done. Whether viewers can remain interested for multiple episodes is another question entirely. The premiere, at least, is an enlightening look at what they do, but how many more hours before we start to think like Nick, who describes his job like so:
“I want to come to work, have a good time, and cut some trees. It’s a double whammy! And then at the end of the day, you go home, drink a couple beers, and you go to bed…Do it all over again the next day.”
Time will tell if Big Bad Wood can endure. Hey Google, if a TV show airs and no one’s around to watch it…
Big Bad Wood premieres tonight at 9 p.m. on National Geographic.