Archive for Saturday, January 29, 2011

Tune In: Documentary digs into impact of oil drilling

January 29, 2011


Chances are you’ve never heard of Parshall, N.D. A small prairie town that was fast on the way to becoming a ghost town, Parshall is now the focus of “Boomtown” (9 p.m., Planet Green), a five-part documentary about the impact of oil drilling and sudden riches on a rural community.

Scrupulously balanced, “Boomtown” features Parshall’s winners and losers. Farmers who retained the mineral rights to their land became instant millionaires after oil was discovered and exploited. Other farmers who own only the surface rights to their fields have seen their land ruined and water spoiled. With the exception of the big winners, all have seen their property values decline. And many worry about the aftermath of the oil-industry invasion, when boom turns to bust.

In addition to instant millionaires and disgruntled farmers, “Boomtown” follows the mayor of the town, a humble grocer who took the job because nobody else wanted it. We also see the changes in Parshall from the point of view of a divorced woman who invested all of her money in a local motel, a place on the verge of failure when the oil exploration began and her rooms began to fill up. In a dramatic touch that almost seems like fiction, she begins a love affair with an itinerant rig welder, who left a high-paying job in Afghanistan to cash in on Parshall’s boom.

A terrific true-life story with touches of “Fargo” and “Friday Night Lights,” this series joins a number of films documenting the impact of energy exploration on American small towns. Seen last fall on HBO, “Gasland,” documented dangers of the experimental and purposefully unregulated process of hydraulic fracturing used in natural-gas drilling. It has just been nominated for an Academy Award.

• In what has to be the “Citizen Kane” of monster movie-’80s pop nostalgia mash ups, “Mega Python vs. Gateroid” (8 p.m., Syfy) takes place in the Florida Everglades where an animal rights activist (Debbie Gibson) clashes with a strident park ranger (Tiffany). Directed by Mary Lambert (“Pet Sematary”).

In other nostalgia casting news, Luke Perry and Jason Priestley reunite in the made-for-cable Western “Goodnight for Justice” (7 p.m., Hallmark).

• The new series “Kidnap & Rescue” (9 p.m., Discovery) looks into the dangerous world of professional kidnapping and those who fight it. Extremely violent.

• Inaugurated 50 years ago this month, President John F. Kennedy continues to cast a spell over people, or at least programmers. “Virtual JFK: Vietnam If Kennedy Had Lived” (7 p.m., The Documentary Channel) looks into one of history’s great might-have-beens.

Today’s highlights

• Beyonce and Jennifer Hudson star in the 2006 adaptation of the stage musical “Dreamgirls” (7 p.m., ABC).

• Women’s Figure Skating Finals (8 p.m., NBC).

• Peculiar events haunt a coastal city on “Primeval” (8 p.m., BBC America).

• Vince Vaughn and P. Diddy appear on “Graham Norton Show” (9 p.m., BBC America).

• Jesse Eisenberg hosts “Saturday Night Live” (10:30 p.m., NBC), featuring musical guest Nicki Minaj.


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