Note: This review is by our correspondent Tom Edwards. Tom lives in Raleigh and is a Systems Administrator for a local engineering firm, but also writes for websites like Popbunker.net and Geek Shui Living. He a husband and father of three sons, and describes himself as a baseball and comics geek. You can follow Tom on Twitter at @mrworkrate or read his blog, Buhner Dot Com.
There’s a moment in “Edge Of America” where host Geoff Edgers proclaims, half laughing and half in terror, “I think I’m going to die – come on, what am I doing?” He doesn’t say it in the “hey guys – look at me, I’m wacky!” way; more in the “I’m pretty sure this is how the Crocodile Hunter died – I wonder if they’ll let my kids see the footage” way.
And we laugh, because Edgers doesn’t die. Otherwise we’d be horrible people.
“Edge Of America” (premiering Tuesday, January 22, with back-to-back episodes at 9:00 & 9:30 p.m.) isn’t groundbreaking television – others have done the “make the host eat horrifying things” and “make the host look like a fool in front of the locals” thing before. But that’s not to say that “Edge” isn’t entertaining. One thing that differentiates “Edge” from similar shows is Edgers, who comes off as sincere and earnest towards these locals and their unusual activities when it would be so easy to roll your eyes and treat them like kooks. After all, let’s face it – sometimes they are.
Edgers visits Oklahoma in the first episode, an episode that seemed to showcase the extremes that the show was willing to put its host through. Within the first few minutes, Edgers finds himself castrating a calf in preparation for a “Calf Fry Festival”, which features an eating contest of deep fried… well, let’s just say that the two events are connected. In another Oklahoma experience, Edgers attempts to catch a rattlesnake, then later looks on as one of the locals butchers the snake, explaining how even after being skinned and having its head cut off, the snake still moves independently because of its central nervous system. Educational and graphic – enough to make my wife ask if this was an “animal cruelty show.” I watched the rest of the episode alone.
The Oregon episode involved a lot less chopping of genitalia and reptiles and focused more on the general weirdness of Oregon, a badge most Oregonians wear with pride. Bicycles were thrown, pigs raced in Model T Fords, and the closest anything came to being chopped was Edgers himself, underestimating the kickback of a chainsaw while learning how to use the saw to carve some art.
What will make “Edge” stand out is the obscurity of its locations and celebrations. I’ve seen tons of specials on local festivals and they start to get repetitive; I know there’s a garlic festival in Gilroy that serves garlic ice cream because every single special about “local festivals” mentions it. But I had never heard of the “Calf Fry Festival”, the “Mangum Rattlesnake Derby”, or the “Pig-N-Ford Races” until “Edge” covered them. As long as “Edge” keeps finding these obscure celebrations, the show will continue to be interesting. And, as long as Edgers keeps not dying, the show will continue to be entertaining.
Just stay away from stingrays, Geoff.
Check out our Q&A with Geoff Edgers.
"Edge of America" debuts Tuesday, January 22 at 9 p.m. on the Travel Channel. Travel can be found on channels 354 and 1354 on Time Warner Cable; channel 277 on DirecTV; channels 254 and 1254 on AT&T U-verse; and channel 196 on Dish Network.
Photo courtesy of The Travel Channel