Cutting Edge – A Very British Storm Junkie Review: Wet and windy but not exactly wild
A VERY BRITISH STORM JUNKIE, C4, Thursday 12th February 9.00pm Alert Me
It’s hard to see quite what the point of A Very British Storm Junkie is. It sways somewhere between the excitement TV which FIVE have an unenviable monolopy in – programs with titles like Lion Tamers UNPLUGGED and True Stories: Amazing Jellyfish Stings – and a repeat of C4’s The Family.
A Very British Storm Junkie follows Stuart Robinson, an IT consultant-cum-weather fanatic who seems to like nothing more than going to places where it’s very wet, very windy and very scary. The program is essentially split into alternating parts. There’s ten minutes of Stuart at home, featuring tense interviews with his partner of 10 years, Alison, who seems to share the general bewilderment at Stuart’s obsession as well as an understandable resentment of his frequent trips to Taiwan, America and anywhere else he can chase tornadoes or hurricanes, and then ten of Stuart in the midst of the storms.
The storm segments are, surprisingly, fairly dull. Whilst Stuart and his storm-chasing buddy Roger are obviously mesmerised by the weather systems, the excitement is somewhat lost in translation to the comfort of a sitting room sofa. After all, we’re basically just being shown wind and rain, albeit very fast and hard wind and rain. Weather is simply not that interesting to the casual observer. There are, however, a few interesting minutes of footage looking at the aftermath of some of the hurricanes and tornadoes Stuart chases. He claims not have any prurient interest in the violence and destruction that these natural phenomena carry in their wake, but it is hard to be convinced when he and Roger gleefully talk about entire islands getting “creamed”. Robinson is obviously aware of the consequences of the weather he’s so obsessed with, and he does attempt to warn those less knowledgeable and prepared than himself, but when he disappointedly sighs and says “Taiwan just really dodged a bullet”, it sounds like he cares more about his bizarre hobby than the lives and homes of thousands of people.
His storm-chasing habit also eclipses his own life to a certain extent. Halfway through the program he marries Alison, but within three weeks he is off again to Kansas to drive a group of punters almost right under a tornado. His new wife is obviously less than impressed, and shortly after he gets back, Stuart’s off again, this time to chase Hurricane Gustav. Gustav was the category-two hurricane that reached windspeeds of 150mph and decimated New Orleans and parts of Cuba, and Stuart went right into the middle of it, finding the eye of the storm. It was not until after Gustav (which he barely discussed the aftermath of, choosing to scoot on to the next storm) that Robinson really inflames his wife’s temper, though, as the full extent of his obsession becomes apparent. He is visibly torn between going home to see his wife before she goes away for a week and staying on in America on the offchance that he can get the eye of Hurricane Hannah, too.
The overwhelming feeling after A Very British Storm Junkie is, frankly, one of indifference, followed by pity for the wife left at home. The show doesn’t shine any sort of light on the reasons for Stuart’s obsession – the best it manages is a weak “I quite liked that film Twister” – and does even less to confront the inevitable moral tangle surrounding it. This is decent background viewing for when you’re doing the dishes, but I wouldn’t sit down and watch it with any sort of attentiveness.
By Chris Harding