Magness Lake, in Heber Springs, is a magnet for swans
FLYING WILD ALASKA
8 p.m. Thursdays
The Discovery Channel
n If Sarah Palin has taught us nothing else, it's this: It takes a certain kind of crazy to live in Alaska. Normally, we wouldn't make such a blanket statement, but let's look at the facts: a state chock full of bears, where it routinely gets cold enough to freeze the junk off a brass statue, where many communities are often cut off from the rest of the world for months at a time by snow. Yeah, we feel comfortable calling anybody who lives there a little nuts. Because of the isolation, resupply by airplane has long been a necessity in the backwaters of Alaska, requiring pilots who aren't afraid to fly — and land — in harsh, unforgiving climate and terrain. In this new show from The Discovery Channel, cameras follow one such outfit, Era Alaska Airlines. Starting from a mom-and-pop operation with one plane, Era has since grown to a fleet of 75 planes. The show follows founder Jim Tweto, his wife Ferno and their daughters Ayla and Ariel as they struggle against sub-freezing temperatures, gale-force winds and mechanical breakdowns to keep the planes flying and little towns all over the state alive. Looks like some thrilling TV.
9 p.m. Mondays
n I was prepared to hate this show — to call it yet another addition to the ongoing Freakshow Channel programming that A&E and several others have leaned toward in recent years (polygamists and hoarders and compulsives, oh my!). Then I watched it, and was genuinely moved. In this show, two morbidly-obese participants per episode — obese to the point of almost being bedridden — agree to participate in a six-month diet and fitness regimen to help them shed pounds and get back on the road toward mobility and health. There's no challenges, votes or prizes, just real people who know that if they don't do something they are going to die and leave their families behind. The pilot episode, which I caught the other day, was intense and emotional, with a former high school football player and a bubbly ex-blues singer in the spotlight. While I normally wouldn't point out something like "Heavy" except to mock the kind of culture that would create it, this time I'll make an exception, if only because: If these folks can do it, you can too.
8 p.m. Mondays
Remember the good old days of teen movies? "Porky's"? "Fast Times at Ridgemont High"? The entire John Hughes oeuvre? In those movies, teenagers smoke, drank, cussed, chased each others' groins, and were generally boiling cauldrons of hormones, confusion and angst. Between then and now, though, something happened. Something stupid. These days, nothing gets the censors in a bigger lather than the idea of little snowflakes on screen doing exactly what your little snowflakes are doing in real life every time they get half a chance. That's what made the BBC show "Skins" so refreshing. Though it was severely edited for content and nudity by the time it made it to The Colonies, the show is still pretty good, focusing on a group of high school friends who get up to plenty of sexual and chemical high jinks both in and out of the classroom. Now the hit show has made the jump to a new American version, set in Baltimore. Though it doesn't get up to as much as the BBC version, MTV's "Skins" still pushes the envelope quite a bit — enough, anyway, that the puritan stuffed-shirts at the Parents Television Council recently sent out their "most urgent alert ever" to parents about the show, calling it "dangerous" and filled with sex, drug abuse and violence. You know: like your average American high school. Sounds like an endorsement to me.