TV Review: Showtime’s ‘Years Of Living Dangerously’ Investigates Climate Change

Anyone with a Facebook feed and “politically minded” friends know the controversy surrounding these next two words: climate control.

Beginning this Sunday, Showtime is airing a new docu-series, Years Of Living Dangerously, which aims to shed light on the “human impact of climate change” as told through the eyes of celebrities and journalists. It should be noted for anyone in disagreement with the science of climate change that Years Of Living Dangerously begins from the viewpoint that global warming is real and accepted.

The premiere episode, “Dry Season,” tells three separate stories, all concerned with the causes and impacts of severe droughts across the globe. We follow New York Times’ and Pulitzer Prize winner Thomas Friedman as he heads to Syria to give us a first hand look at the unsteady political climate and how the lack of rain has impacted the culture. This segment is the most eye opening as audiences are taken inside the lives of persecuted peoples and political corruption as well as a militia camp.

On the riskier side, we follow Don Cheadle to Plainview, Texas (home state shoutout!) where severe drought has forced a meat packing plant to close and devastate the local economy. In Plainview, Cheadle encounters an evangelical Christian community under the understanding that the drought is a cyclical part of nature and sent by God. Things get a little borderline offensive here for a few minutes when it seems as if the show is mocking these people. You won’t win new converts to the climate change cause by ridiculing your opposition. Cheadle’s not the issue here, he constantly comes off endearing and kind. Rather, these scenes are edited to provoke. Things quickly recover with the introduction of Katherine Hayhoe, who just happens to be both a climate scientist and an evangelical. She presents her information in such a way that appeals to her audience, although the home audience doesn’t get the benefit of a detailed breakdown of the science involved.

The final, weird segments feature Harrison Ford flying a jet and traveling to Indonesia. In Indonesia, Ford investigates the government corruption and environmental costs of deforestation. There’s plenty of interesting and shocking footage here, enough to convince even the staunchest naysayers. Still, Ford carries this detached swagger that suggests he’d rather be anywhere but in his skin. Odder still is Ford’s insistance on meeting the Indonesian official charged with regulating the forests. You have to wonder what exactly he believes an actor such as himself could clear up that no one else has been able to accomplish. Does he believe that he actually is Han Solo or Indiana Jones?

Years Of Living Dangerously gets off to a promising start with “Dry Season.” I understand the desire use a celebrity proxy to present controversial idea, but there’s always the risk of that presonality eclipsing the message, such as Ford’s pieces (although I’m dying to see this meeting.) Still, YOLD gives home audiences an opportunity to see parts of the world we aren’t normally faced with and redefines the context of our knowledge of climate change. For this alone, the show is bound to prove exciting and invaluable.

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