The Extremists in High Definition – The Story

‘The Extremists’ was a successful syndicated action sports show that aired from the early 90’s to 1997.  The first three seasons highlighted the best extreme athletes from around the world and the show was narrated by the iconic KLOS disc jockey Jim Ladd.

In 1995, the syndicator Eyemark Entertainment suggested bringing in a host and hired professional volleyball star and model Gabrielle Reece.  The decision to use a host increased viewership and it didn’t hurt that Gabby was a recognizable star helping bring extreme sports to the forefront.  Gabby would toss to pre-built segments and throughout the show she would meet up with a world class athlete and attempt to experience their passion.  During the season, she raced on a Super Bike, land luged, barefoot waterskied and learned how to surf with Big Wave Surfing Legend Larid Hamilton…and the rest as they is history.

After the end of the 1996 season, Gabby handed over the hosting detail to her new boyfriend, Laird Hamilton.  This was Laird’s first real hosting job and he took to the new season as only Laird can, charging into it like a giant wave from Jaws.  Laird rope jumped with the late Dan Osman, wrestled a tiger, flew with the Blue Angels, competed in the Catalina Paddleboard Classic and even introduced his new invention the foil board.

I was hired to Co-Produce the final season with Laird and spent the year flying across the country, directing, writing and delivering all 26 shows to our syndicator.  At the end of the season, the show had ran it’s course and after 88 episodes, ‘The Extremists’ was done.  I continued producing for Bennett Productions and in 2000 we decided to bring back ‘The Extremists’.  In just three short years our small production company decided to invest and purchase the new Sony 700 high definition camera.  We even built a high def on-line edit bay and tried to figure out the best possible workflow for nonlinear editing with this new format.  No one was shooting high def back then and everyone thought we were nuts.

Then one day, a friend came by and suggested I meet this climbing legend and writer named John Long.  He was a climbing regular next door at Rock Creation and John strolled in larger than life.  I showed him early edits of the new ‘Extremists’ and a few other action sports shows that we were working on, but the new ‘Extremists’ caught his eye. He immediately threw out his critique which basically meant he ripped it apart.  After he left I remember thinking about everything he said.  His ideas about storytelling, action sports and what he thought the show could and would eventually turn out to be.  What came out of this partnership was the rebirth of ‘The Extremists’.  At the time there were no outlets to air the pilot so we decided to enter the show into various award shows. We won The International Monitor Award in 2001 and shortly after we sold the pilot to NHK.  We continued shopping it around, but we were unable to sell it domestically.  Even with failure, this new content created buzz in the action sports community and soon we were producing the first ever Red Bull event in high-def.  John and I continued producing high-def content and in 2003 we were hired to launch New Wave Entertainment’s high-def department.

JR

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