New TV series puts 'Freaks of Nature' to the test
Weather Channel spotlights people who have taken on extreme weather — and won.
Wed, Nov 13, 2013 at 02:45 PM
Host Tyler Harcott takes on some of the challenges himself, including being frozen in a block of ice. (Photo: The Weather Channel)
It may not be nice to fool Mother Nature, but there are some fearless (crazy?) souls who dare to defy her, braving extreme weather conditions and manipulating natural phenomena to perform what seem like superhuman feats. Debuting November 17, the new Weather Channel series spotlights a dozen of them, some well known (like surfer Laird Hamilton), but most less so, like “Ice Man” Wim Hoff, who demonstrates his ability to withstand extreme cold in the premiere.
“We began looking at the forces that affect mankind most, then the most visually stunning ways in which humans interact with these phenomena,” says series producer Andrew Zikking. “And ideally, at the end of each search, we'd come across a human doing something totally new and unique. We normally start by Googling words like "world’s most extreme," "nature’s most deadly," etc., and we found that there are a lot of incredible people out there who really can do things most humans wouldn't dare to, and some amazing stories that demonstrate how deadly nature can be, but also tales of surviving, against all odds.”
Host Tyler Harcott traveled the globe to meet these exceptional folks and participate in a few nature defying experiments himself. “Being from Canada, I'm familiar with exposure to any and all weather conditions, but it was the idea of experiencing these in a most 'extreme' way that caught my attention,” says Harcott, who was initially contacted for the job via Facebook. “I couldn't pass up the chance to delve into the stories of these people who in many cases seem to defy the laws of physics and push the human body to places it really should not be able to go.”
Who impressed him most? “There was something unique about all of them,” Harcott responds. “Viewers will discover their own favorites. For me, it's hard not to be fascinated by the physical and mental strength of the Ice Man, Wim Hoff, or free diver Will Trubridge, whose humility and sense of peace defy the deadly nature of his sport.”
Harcott was an eager participant in the experiments. “For me, that was the most important part of the show. The viewer needs to see a mere mortal like myself have a go at the same feats that our 'Freaks' are attempting. It gives a good sense of perspective so the viewer can see just how truly amazing these people really are. So there I was, doing everything from submerging myself in freezing water in The Netherlands to performing life-threatening aerial maneuvers over the foothills of California. Was it scary? At times, you bet it was!”
The challenge that scared him most was going through the stages of hypothermia. “It happened so fast, was so dangerous, and despite all the precautions that were taken put me in a place where I truly feared the worst,” Harcott recalls. “That segment is as real as 'reality' TV gets.”
After spending time with the “freaks,” he came away from the experience “above all else, with a new level of humility. After attempting to do what they do and then seeing them taking it well beyond. I also learned that it's good to have a thesaurus on hand to enable me to find other ways to say ‘That's amazing!!’"
Harcott hopes audiences will be similarly impressed by the viewing experience, “seeing our natural world and it's many deadly forces with a renewed sense of respect. Perhaps they, too, can see that in the face of our planet’s raw and sometimes unforgiving power, man can still find ways to harness it and go above and beyond what we are told is 'humanly possible.’”
Tyler in a solar-powwered car. (Photo courtesy The Weather Channel)
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