Discovery Channel’s third season of Everest: Beyond The Limit began airing this past Sunday, and subsequently finished up last night. The show did offer some amazing views of the mountain, and showed aspects of high altitude mountaineering, but personally I felt that it was mere shadow of its former self, and mostly ended up being a disappointment for me.
In the previous two seasons of the show, Discovery followed teams that were led by Russell Brice’s Himex guide service on the North Side of the Mountain, located in Tibet. With the third season, the focus shifted to the South Side of Everest, found in Nepal. Brice’s team returned, but the show also added climbers from Eric Simonson’s IMG squad to the mix too.
All of this was well known before the show began airing, and it all seemed rather promising, but that was because I kept thinking of the possibilities in reference to the previous two seasons.
I thought it would be great to see an in depth, multi-episode show centered around the very different approach to the South Side, with two teams giving us plenty to watch. What we got instead was Everest: Beyond The Limit Lite, a show lacking the depth and focus of the previous seasons, and in many ways it seems that Discovery gave up on the program before it ever aired.
I remarked in a previous post on this blog that it was disturbing that Discovery did little in the way of promotion for the show. I could barely find any reference to it on their website, and debuting the show during the week before Christmas and New Year seems like ratings suicide.
Looking at what we ended up getting, I think that was a fairly accurate assessment. I can’t imagine fans of the previous two seasons being satisfied with what we’ve been given this year.
For example, in seasons past, we really got to know the climbers well over a series of episodes that showed them making the entire climb, including acclimatization treks up to each of the established camps on the mountain.
Watching this season it seems that a climb up Everest is merely five days of incredibly challenging climbing, rather than the month plus spent preparing for a summit bid. The producers of the show really glossed over the process, focusing instead on a different climber or two each episode who are making their assault on the summit,
all the while the narrating reminding us that they are moving into the most dangerous part of the mountain. We’re suppose to forget that it is a different “most dangerous part of the mountain” than the last time they mentioned it.
I will commend the show for it’s solid camera work, which seemed to get better as the episodes went along. It also did a decent job of breaking down the climb into easy to understand sections,
accurately indicating when climbers were on the Lhotse Face, the Yellow Band, or the Hillary Step. They also did a fine job of explaining the basics of mountaineering to a mainstream audience, even if they were a bit overly dramatic at times.
Where the show really dropped the ball for me was with building any kind of chemistry with the climbers, which was previously a strength in seasons past. In Seasons 1 and 2, you really got to know, and care about, the climbers,
as you watched them work really hard to go after their goal of the summit. This year, it was a brief introduction of the climbers, and then off they’d go on their climb, with little regard to connecting with the audience.
It’s a shame that the show has fallen to this level. While it is still interesting to watch, it is a far cry of what it once was, and has pretty much left me disappointed in the end product. I very much doubt we’ll see a Season 4.
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