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Welcome to the Jungle, Baby — You’re Gonna Die

March 31, 2011

It’s a TV show about the survivors of a plane crash who find themselves in a strange, mysterious place. They include a strong, beautiful woman, a wisecracking blonde guy, a man of science with a hidden health problem, a kid with mysterious links to the land around them, a spoiled, rich, whiny diva and a doctor who doesn’t think to take off his tie for at least three episodes. And there are people living in the jungle, people with a secret they want to protect.

But it isn’t Lost. It’s Peter Benchley’s Amazon, a Canadian-made series that ran for one season a decade ago. Shot in Toronto, it starred Carol Alt, Alotta Fagina from that Austin Powers movie, Canadian TV legend Rob Stewart and the king of the low budget, C. Thomas Howell. And I found it this week in the discount bin, the entire series for a good price.

  • Note: This DVD set includes a strange new disclaimer: “The quality of the audio and video may reflect the age of the source materials.” In other words, Canadian.

I spent some time on the set of this series back when I wrote about science fiction for a living. It was shot on a revolutionary set in Toronto, an Alliance Atlantis facility with an adaptable jungle that could be rearranged as needed. When I watch it now, I remember how efficient the production was as the crew managed to make the same small space look like a river, a jungle, a clearing or a Starbucks. I made that last one up. Also, they gave me a backpack, T-shirt, hat and pocket knife with the Amazon logo on it, and I always reward graft with a compliment.

Watching the show now is strange. It doesn’t hold up, quality-wise; it has that cheap video look to it and those super-Littlest Hobo-style opening credits Canadians know well. And there are acting issues; everyone is capable enough, but they seem unsure sometimes of what they’re supposed to be doing. This has a lot to do with the production system, as they were acting against footage shot by a second unit in the actual Amazon, and it can sometimes be hard to react to a monkey that’s actually thousands of miles away, or to C. Thomas Howell.

But I’m enjoying it. As a Lost fan, I see the archetypes, and I see the similarities, but to be honest, every TV show about castaways will feature the same ideas and points. It’s the way storytelling works; Episode 2 of Amazon features survivors returning to the damaged plane  salvage what they can, only to be attacked …  The biggest shame in Amazon is that the story never concluded, but that first season contains everything I love about adventure stories: lost tribes, poison arrows, nerdy survivors and Littlest Hobo production qualities. I’m glad to be seeing it again.

I once told Carol Alt she could use some acting lessons, and she said “Shut up and go back to sleep.”

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2 comments

  1. About those Alt acting comments – you sure it wasn’t Ron Duguay lying there? They shared the same hair brush.


  2. I volunteer to give her those lessons. There would be no sleeping.



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