Archive for Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Oil, mud versus mother of specials

June 18, 2008


Cable's love affair with rugged blue-collar work continues with "Black Gold" (9 p.m., TruTV), an eight-episode documentary-style series set in the dirty, demanding and dangerous oil fields of West Texas.

Guys here work 18-hour days on derricks that drill a series of 30-foot pipes into the ground until that pipeline reaches depths of several thousand feet. The pipes are fitted together with giant winches and tightened with chains that can rip a man's face off or send him hurtling to his death. The equipment can weigh 10,000 pounds and dangle dangerously overhead, and the whole shebang is lubricated with water and mud under tons of explosive pressure. Injuries happen, and the deaths of friends becomes a common bond.

The characters who run these operations are known as drillers. These men are roughnecks, and the rookies get called worms until they prove their worth. Just to remind us of the pecking order here, one worm is named Peanut for his diminutive size and relative status.

"Black Gold" follows three rigs and three crews competing to strike oil first in the Texas Permian Basin. The rocketing cost of oil has created a drilling boom and brought out the competitive streak in oilmen who pour millions of dollars into an operation that can either mint money or turn into a dry hole.

So "Black Gold" doesn't just imitate the macho spirit of "Deadliest Catch" and "Ice Road Truckers." It also reflects cable's love affair with the roll of the dice. And it makes a strong case that the oil game may be the biggest gamble of them all.

¢ Now that we've covered cable's testosterone territory, let's amble over to the estrogen sector, represented tonight by "OMG! Sextuplets!" (9 p.m., WE), which documents a couple faced with fertility issues. They undergo a relatively routine procedure that yields unexpected dividends.

Bryan and Jenny Mache recall their surprise when their unborn baby's ultrasound detected six separate heartbeats. "OMG" follows Jenny's difficult pregnancy, relatively easy birth and a near-death experience that followed delivery. We then see them adjust in the days and weeks after the big birthday.

Careful viewers will wonder how the documentary crew knew to follow the couple even before her surprise pregnancy. How did they know the Maches would hit the fertility jackpot?

And although this documentary offers quite a few intimate and unflattering glimpses of Jenny's ordeal, it withholds one crucial detail about the Maches' experience.

Jenny spent months in a hospital bed before delivering, and her babies remained in the facility for months of postnatal care. She was under the supervision of a world-famous specialist. Both Jenny and one of her children had to undergo delicate surgeries. Not to be nosy, but just what was their medical bill? And what kind of insurance do they have? Is there a co-pay?

¢ "Just Another Day in Paradise" (7:30 p.m., PBS, check local listings) looks at three men on the USS Nimitz as they struggle with anxieties about impending fatherhood while serving thousands of miles from home and family. "Paradise" offers a digest-sized helping of the miniseries "Carrier," due back in rotation on some PBS stations.

Tonight's other highlights

¢ Performers compete with a very particular role in mind on "Legally Blonde the Musical: The Search for Elle Woods" (7 p.m., MTV), a reality show connected to a Broadway musical based on a movie franchise.


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.