Nerve Cen­ter of­fers view­ers all-ac­cess pass to amaze­ment

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - ENTERTAINMENT - BRAD OSWALD

WHEN you watch a Cirque do Soleil show, you can’t help but mar­vel at the ath­leti­cism and artistry of the per­form­ers. And when you watch an IndyCar race, you’re bound to be awestruck by the skill and courage of the driv­ers.

But in the case of each event, as with pretty much any show or sport­ing event you might ob­serve, there’s a whole lot more go­ing on be­hind the scenes than the tick­et­buy­ing pub­lic prob­a­bly ever re­al­izes or un­der­stands.

Dis­cov­ery Chan­nel’s Cana­dian-made se­ries Nerve Cen­ter opens its sec­ond sea­son (Sun­day at 7 p.m.) with backto-back episodes that demon­strate, in fas­ci­nat­ing de­tail, just how much goes into putting on a show or stag­ing a race.

That Nerve Cen­ter should re­turn to the realm of Cirque du soleil (it ex­am­ined the aquatic ex­trav­a­ganza O in its first sea­son) is some­thing of a no-brainer. By their na­ture, and in­creas­ingly so with each new show that opens, Cirque du Soleil’s fixed-venue events (par­tic­u­larly in Las Ve­gas) have be­come as much about tech­ni­cal wiz­ardry and me­chan­i­cal won­der as they are about con­found­ing feats of hu­man strength and agility.

In Sun­day’s opener, the Dis­cov­ery crew vis­its Cirque’s KÀ spec­tac­u­lar at the MGM Grand Ho­tel. While a de­cid­edly less splashy (in terms of wa­ter, not show­man­ship) en­deav­our than O, this show has its own unique set of jaw-drop­ping tech­ni­cal el­e­ments.

KÀ is per­formed on a one-of-a-kind stage that, thanks to a gi­gan­tic gantry crane that em­braces it, can tilt from hor­i­zon­tal to ver­ti­cal in just over half a minute and can spin 360 de­grees re­gard­less of its level of in­cline.

These move­ments are con­trolled by a team of tech­ni­cians and rig­gers whose split-sec­ond de­ci­sions and re­ac­tions keep the show mov­ing and the im­mensely tal­ented ac­ro­batic per­form­ers safe. Nerve Cen­ter fol­lows cast and crew through a sin­gle aroundthe-clock day, from the cur­tain of one night’s show through the pres­surepacked ef­fort to re­pair hy­draulic pumps in time to al­low the cast to re­hearse a dan­ger­ous new trick and in­tro­duce a new front-line cast mem­ber in time for the next night’s show.

It’s noth­ing short of amaz­ing to Sun­day at 7 p.m. Dis­cov­ery

out of five ob­serve, and Nerve Cen­ter’s cam­era crew is metic­u­lous in its at­ten­tion to fas­ci­nat­ing Cirque-in­clined de­tail.

Sun­day’s sec­ond episode comes with an im­por­tant viewer-dis­cre­tion warn­ing: the ex­am­i­na­tion of IndyCar Cham­pi­onship rac­ing was also shot in Las Ve­gas, last fall at the open-wheel se­ries’ sea­son-end­ing race, which in­cluded a multi-car crash that claimed the life of driver Dan Whel­don.

The in­stal­ment ac­tu­ally fo­cuses mostly on two other IndyCar teams as they pre­pare for the race by set­ting up their cars, tak­ing part in prac­tice laps and start-po­si­tion qual­i­fy­ing and do­ing end­less pit-stop run-throughs in an ef­fort to shave sec­onds off race-day tire changes and re­fu­elling.

But footage of the race it­self is chill­ing, with the ac­ci­dent that killed Whel­don shown from sev­eral an­gles that some might find ex­ces­sive and/or up­set­ting. Nerve Cen­ter’s be­hind-thescenes ac­cess takes view­ers un­com­fort­ably close as the folks who make their liv­ing in the IndyCar busi­ness strug­gle to deal with what has just oc­curred.

It’s the best and worst of a se­ries that’s very good at what it does.

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