Paul Doiron here with a sneak peek at a new reality show on the Animal Planet television channel. For reasons that should be obvious, this one is near and dear to my heart. I’m going to be the unabashed fanboy and just quote from the press release:
NORTH WOODS LAW follows Maine’s elite game-warden service as they navigate the Pine Tree State’s rugged terrain during hunting season – one of the busiest and most perilous times of the year. Each punch of the time clock is a ticket to extreme danger and drama as undercover stings and intense rescues are all in a day’s work. Whether they’re tracking bears on dangerous mountains or busting drunk drivers on ATVs, these wardens risk life and limb to protect animals and serve the people of Maine.
The popularity of the TV series “Cops” made viewers think it’s a no-brainer for police officers to agree to have a camera crew riding along in a squad car (or in this case GMC pickup), but that’s hardly the case. The situations the “North Wood Law” crew hoped to record were bound to be disturbing, violent, even dangerous, which is why the Warden Service required that the cameramen wear ballistic vests. There are issues around the privacy of individuals not yet found guilty of crimes (which is why you see those blurred faces on “Cops”), and you just never know what the PR and legal ramifications might be of taped events. Whenever the press tags along, the police lose a certain degree of the control they’re used to having in terms of controlling the message that goes out to the public.
For instance, the “North Woods Law” crew was on the scene when wardens shot and killed a young adult bear in Portland last September. They captured the episode on video, and it’s a heartbreaking (and bound to be controversial) segment. The necessity of the shooting was questioned by some commenters on media websites last fall. Seeing the incident play out on television will stir emotions again, not just for Mainers, but for a national audience that includes a sizable number of animal rights activists. For writers there’s no such thing as bad publicity, but it’s not that way for cops.
So it remains to be seen how TV viewers will come to see the Maine Warden Service. I’ve met enough wardens and done enough ride-alongs to believe that on the whole the reaction will be positive. These are some good wardens on “North Woods Law”—among the best in the state. And I expect the audience who tunes into the Animal Planet will be shocked by the outrageous things these professionals have to deal with on a daily basis. Unlike the “Jersey Shore” or “The Hills,” no one needs to script these over-the-top episodes. I write about game wardens for a living, and I will tell you right now that the truth is stranger than anything that’s been in my books.
Ideally, “North Woods Law” will help readers of my novels understand Mike Bowditch and his world a little better. But at a time when the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife is facing brutal cutbacks, I am more concerned that the Warden Service get the public support it deserves. Maine wardens do an important job. If more people come to understand the value of their profession, then “North Woods Law” will have served an importance purpose beyond offering a few hours of entertainment.