Reefer madness on The Weather Channel

The extreme weather that has battered the United States over the past several months pretty much guarantees a healthy set of eyeballs on The Weather Channel at any given time, but the network also quietly has been augmenting its lineup with new unscripted shows such as Reef Wranglers, a new four-part half-hour series premiering tonight.
This new program isn’t explicitly “weathery” in the sense that, say, a show about storm chasers is, but it does offer an entertaining and illuminating look at one company’s efforts to help heal the fragile ecosystem of the Gulf of Mexico in the wake of violent storms and oil spills. Reef Wranglers focuses on the staff of the family-owned and –operated Walter Marine In Orange Beach, Ala., the largest builder of artificial reefs in America. The team battles changeable weather and a host of other challenges as they sink huge objects ranging from a Vietnam-era airplane to a local shrimp boat down to the gulf bed and anchor them there to become a vital new breeding ground for aquatic life.
Additionally, the crew sinks and anchors underwater barriers to help protect the shrinking local shoreline from additional painful erosion.
Reef Wranglers excels when it focuses on the hows and whys of the projects, illustrating how the health of the gulf can have a direct bearing on the weather that flows over it. If there’s room for improvement, it lies, understandably, in the eager cast’s tendency to try too hard to sell the “comic” moments. This show may not be scripted in the formal sense, but very few of the exchanges in the episode Weather Channel provided for preview sound genuine – you get a sense that every scene has been prefaced with a lengthy “OK, you say this, then I’ll say that, and then he’ll come walking up” discussion. That’s a shame, because the personalities and setting of the show are quirky and authentic enough to sell themselves.
If Weather Channel orders more episodes of this entertaining series beyond this four-episode test run, here’s hoping the Walter Marine crew is able to relax and just be themselves.

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