Late last fall, G4, the TV network ostensibly about gaming, added a new reality series to its roster of original reality shows, which primarily consists of COPS knock-off Campus PD and American Ninja Warrior. The new series doesn’t seem to fit amid the reruns of Cheaters, but instead is one you could imagine Discovery airing, and that’s a compliment, because Bomb Patrol Afghanistan is not just a high-quality series, but it’s both important and engaging at the same time.
Calling it “high-tension” or “extraordinarily real” doesn’t seem to do this series justice. It follows the Navy E.O.D. (Explosive Ordinance Disposal) Unit as they try to find and disarm hidden roadside bombs (IEDs) and other devices. The series offers incredible access and is shot in high definition via cameras that are sometimes attached to the men and their equipment, so you’re right there as they, for example, dig through sand to find pressure plates or explosives. It’s intense, to say the least.
The series debuted last fall and returned a month ago with additional episodes, and ends tonight at 10 p.m. with a special about how the series was filmed (it’s produced by Big Fish Entertainment), and that’s followed by a reunion hosted by the show’s narrator, actor Josh Duhamel.
Access and great photography alone don’t make for a compelling reality series, so what makes the series really work is its attention to its cast members. Both the impact of their jobs and the interpersonal conflict in the team get attention. Don’t get me wrong: This is not The Real Housewives. But the men struggle with each other and leadership, and then there’s the more subtle but striking relationships with the people of Afghanistan, whether they’re kicking a soccer ball and giving candy to kids while waiting for a helicopter to arrive with their Thanksgiving dinner, or lamenting how those same people now think they’re “fucking assholes” for landing a helicopter on a field and covering their town with dust.
Fascinating, intensely watchable stuff. All of its episodes are on iTunes if you’ve missed it, and G4 periodically airs marathons, as they did this past weekend. Here’s a clip: