My absolute favourite TV programme isn’t on television. You can’t even buy it on DVD or Blu-Ray. Instead it is bought and downloaded over the web.
Some of you may remember some years ago that there was a Discovery TV series called Storm Chasers. This followed the exploits of three chase teams as they tracked storms and tried to intercept tornadoes.
There’s so little known about tornadoes. Predicting them is still a black art and we don’t really know much about what goes on inside one. And so these teams got close, dangerously close. Two of them even had armoured vehicles that they actually drove into them to get readings and capture footage.
Now the big thing some people think is that the thrill of the chase is all about the destruction wrought by these beasts of nature. It’s not. In fact if anything can spoil a good tornado it’s it hitting a house or populated area. Just as you might love sharks and want to see them in the wild it doesn’t mean you want to see them eat people. In the same way, seeing a tornado is about seeing this Great White of the Plains away from populated areas.
But seeing as I’m in the UK, the closest I was going to come to seeing a decent one (we get a lot in the UK but they are fairly weak) was to watch Storm Chasers. A lot safer too.
But Discovery cancelled. I was heartbroken because it was the best thing on television. I guess it was an expensive series to make and there was no guarantee even in record breaking years for tornado outbreaks that the storm you were chasing would be the one to produce a tornado.
But all was not lost as one of the teams, TVN, decided to go it alone and make their own TV series of 20-25 minute episodes. They were the team with the Dominator armoured cars and were always the most entertaining to watch. Available to buy for download or streaming from their web store for the price of a DVD boxed set, Tornado Chasers series 1 marked a massive step up in quality from Storm Chasers. Gone was the three minute recaps / previews either side of ad breaks. Gone were some of the slightly cheesy sound effects. The video quality improved and it felt more honest.
2012 was a year of transition for the team. You can see them struggling as they bust on storm after storm. They have enough footage from over the years that each episode is guaranteed great tornado footage, even if it is in the form of an anecdotal flashback. But despite 2012 being a bad year for intercepting tornadoes they managed to produce a 12 part series that was, genuinely, exceptional.
Come to 2013 and the team launched a Kickstarter to improve the series with more cameras and better equipment. They added a third vehicle to their line of Dominator intercept vehicles and joined forces with one of Oklahoma’s TV stations working with their storm prevention team.
The result is the best series yet both in terms of footage and quality. The episodes will now mix in news footage with the team on the ground resulting in a complete 360 degree view of what is going on. There’s still the same drama, the same characters (although you can see how storm season can burn some friendships out or put them to breaking point). They intercept some amazing tornadoes and manage to miss some of the biggest tornadoes of the season. This is still a game of luck after all.
It’s fun, mostly light-hearted, informative but never forgets that these storms destroy lives. The footage is incredible.
I love this series so much I pretty much watch an episode every day (really!). If anyone wonders why there are a lot of tornado easter eggs in my work, this and Storm Chasers is the reason why.
The 2013 season is available for $24 and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone who either loved Storm Chasers or is really interested in extreme weather. And because I really want to support these guys and see them make new seasons for years to come (you can only watch that amazing Bennington tornado so many times) here’s where I do my salesman bit and say if you click this link you can get 15% off that price.
In the interests of full disclosure, yes I do get a ‘commission’ based on this in the form of credit towards extra copies of the season to give to friends and colleagues to get them hooked as well, but as I say, my motivation is to see this series grow and continue.
Check out the free episode they released to see just exactly what you are missing.
BEST TV Series not on TV.