Television Review: ‘Edge of America,’ on Travel Channel, on Bizarre Trips

January 22nd, 2013

You have to admire the audaciousness of Geoff Edgers, whose new travel series, “Edge of America,” samples odd festivals, competitions and such.

Other shows have worked this territory — Dave Mordal’s “Wreckreation Nation,” on Discovery in 2009, for instance. But in the premiere of “Edge of America,” Tuesday on the Travel Channel, Mr. Edgers isn’t content merely to eat calf testicles at a festival in Oklahoma. He also tries his hand at harvesting them.

This is not particularly pleasant to watch. Neither is a scene later in the same episode involving the still-beating heart of a decapitated rattlesnake, part of Mr. Edgers’s excursion to the Mangum Rattlesnake Derby, also in Oklahoma.

But this is not the kind of travel show that seeks to make you want to replicate the trip so that you too can see that beautiful sunset or lie on that pristine beach. The intent is to make you marvel at just how bizarre Americans’ recreational preferences can be. Sure, a few viewers may say, “Hey, Dear, let’s go there next summer,” but many are more likely to rush to the safety of a Disney cruise. Mr. Edgers swallows a raw rattlesnake heart so that you don’t have to.

Mr. Edgers’s day job is being a staff writer at The Boston Globe. Like many print journalists who try television, he isn’t a natural on camera. There’s a self-consciousness to his delivery that is only exacerbated by the local residents who join him, many of whom try unnecessarily hard to convince you of their wackiness.

The overall collage, though, is amusing. Mr. Edgers takes it one state at a time. After Oklahoma in the premiere, he turns his attention to Oregon (an episode also being broadcast on Tuesday), where the activities he tries include racing a Model T while holding a live pig.

Too often, Mr. Edgers settles for golly-gee patter. Phrases like “What am I doing?” and “What have I gotten myself into?” crop up a lot. But once in a while he lets his deadpan side run loose, to good effect.

“What does Mangum have that nobody else has that we can cash in on?’ ” a local man tells him, explaining how the rattlesnake derby came to be.

And Mr. Edgers responds, “Because nothing says entertainment more than ‘rattlesnake.’ ”

Edge of America

Travel Channel, Tuesday nights at 9, Eastern and Pacific times; 8, Central time.

Produced by Magilla Entertainment for the Travel Channel. Brian Flanagan, Laura Palumbo Johnson and Matthew Ostrom, executive producers for Magilla Entertainment; Patrick McManamee, executive producer for the Travel Channel.

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