Noth­ing hot about duo’s adventures in ‘hell’

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - ARTS & LIFE - BRAD OSWALD

IT’S like trav­el­ling back in time. The producers of the His­tory doc­u­men­tary 7 Days in Hell would like their hour­long re­al­ity-TV ad­ven­ture to make you feel like you’ve been trans­ported back to the late stages of the 19th cen­tury, to a time when for­tune­seek­ing prospec­tors risked all for a chance at a Yukon gold strike. In­stead, how­ever, 7 Days in Hell (which airs Tues­day at 9 p.m. on His­tory) will prob­a­bly take many lo­cal view­ers back only as far as the dawn of the 21st cen­tury, when lo­cal pro­duc­tion com­pa­nies Credo En­ter­tain­ment and Fran­tic Films were re­vis­it­ing the hard­ships of pi­o­neer life with am­bi­tious liv­ing-his­tory se­ries such as Pi­o­neer Quest: A Year in the Real West, Quest for the Bay and Klondike: The Quest for Gold. And the feel­ing, for any­one who re­calls those sturdy TV ef­forts and takes time to tune in to the com­par­a­tively weak 7 Days in Hell, will likely be that, well, they just don’t make ’em like they used to. 7 Days in Hell fol­lows a pair of ad­ven­ture-minded bud­dies, Brett Rogers and Cliff Quinn, as they at­tempt to re-cre­ate one of the most des­per­ate sur­vival sit­u­a­tions that might have con­fronted circa-1885 Yukon gold car­ry­ing, have very lit­tle idea how to start a fire in the wilder­ness (but soon find out that mix­ing gun­pow­der with tin­der isn’t a bright idea) and pro­fess no prior ex­pe­ri­ence at hunt­ing or trap­ping (but still, in one of the hour’s more du­bi­ous se­quences, man­age to knock a squir­rel off a high tree branch with an 1880s-era ri­fle). And through it all, the pals com­plain end­lessly about the dif­fi­culty they’re en­dur­ing. Re­ally, the ti­tle is self­ex­plana­tory; view­ers don’t re­quire a once-ev­ery-two-min­utes re­minder that the stars of the show are “in hell.”

Yes, it’s a dif­fi­cult slog, but placed in con­text along­side Pi­o­neer Quest and its Jamie Brown-pro­duced liv­ing-his­tory suc­ces­sors, 7 Days in Hell seems like not much more than an ad­mit­tedly un­pleas­ant walk in a sparsely pop­u­lated park. The Quest shows from a decade ago were far su­pe­rior in terms of con­tent, cast­ing and pro­duc­tion val­ues, and cur­rent docu-re­al­ity con­tem­po­raries such as Dis­cov­ery’s Naked and Afraid fea­ture tougher, more in­trigu­ing chal­lenges and much pluck­ier par­tic­i­pants. The press ma­te­ri­als for 7 Days in Hell in­clude a pass­ing men­tion that this is a “pi­lot,” which sug­gests His­tory will as­sess the re­sults of this one-off air­ing and then de­cide whether to send Rogers and Quinn out on other adventures. Based on this ini­tial mis­step, the bet­ting here is that the an­swer will be a sim­ple “Hell? No.”

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