Can you smell it, all that manly B.O. wafting across Discovery Channel, all the way into living rooms?
With the Olympics over, Discovery is unleashing a wave of new and returning series aimed at men. The returning "Survivorman" kicks things off Aug. 19, paired with "One Car Too Far," co-produced with its international networks. Then there’s "Dirty Jobs Down Under With Mike Rowe" (Aug. 22), and "Bering Sea Gold: Under the Ice" as the lead-in to introduce another Alaska-set series, "Yukon Men," on Aug. 24.
If all these shows look and sound alike to a degree, they’re not necessarily created equal, starting with whether the stakes are real or concocted.
The latter description applies to "One Car Too Far," which features a former special forces officer, Gary Humphrey, and gearhead Bill Wu trying to drive a four-wheel-drive vehicle in all kinds of dangerous locations, beginning with down a Chilean mountain/volcano in the premiere.
Why? Because it's there, that’s why.
Still, this is one of those shows where you really need to read the opening disclaimer, which –- despite all the narration and direct-to-camera commentary about how the pair could die at a moment’s notice -- says this:
"Due to the extreme danger, Bill and Gary receive production support when necessary and on some occasions were presented with situations to demonstrate survival and driving techniques.
"Do not attempt the dangerous activities depicted in this program."
In other words, the producers set up the stunts and helped the guys when it's required. It’s not quite "Man Vs. Wild" host Bear Grylls spending the night in hotels, but in the same ballpark.
By contrast, "Yukon Men" might be about as stripped to basics as anything you’ll see in this genre: People living in a remote part of Alaska, Tanana, who hunt their food in the face of extreme weather. The show focuses on a pair of fathers and their 20-something sons, who hunt Caribou (which -– alert to the squeamish –- are shown being shot and gutted) and worry about hungry wolves attacking people or stealing food. (There's some cheating here, too, since most of the wolves appear to be file footage, but you can't make a reality show these days without breaking from reality.)
"Yukon Men" certainly fits the rugged-outdoorsmen brand, which has turned out to be a goldmine for Discovery, even if there's a malodorous whiff of repetition in the formula.
Admittedly, this appraisal comes from someone who wouldn’t dare trying to change his oil, much less riding a snowmobile into the wilderness to shoot Caribou.
Still, at least one can appreciate the "We need to eat" underpinnings of "Yukon Men," as opposed to the pointless stunts of "One Car Too Far," which might as well be called "One Macho Show Too Many."