Yul's America Revealed Adventures
SKYDIVING INTO KANSAS
I stuck my head outside the tiny plane and felt a whoosh of air filling my mouth and pressing my goggles into my face. It occurred to me that if I were a dog, I’d probably be having loads of fun. But regrettably, I wasn’t a Labrador enjoying the ride of his life. I was a panic-stricken first-time television host trying desperately to manage his lifelong fear of heights.
The skydiving expert strapped to my back yelled something into my ear above the dull roar. “Are you feeling ok?” he asked. Or at least I thought he did. Later on, I found out that he had actually asked me if I was ready to jump. When I dumbly nodded yes, he launched us out of the plane, causing me to experience a wave of panic that culminated in wild, incoherent screaming.
The next minute of free fall was a total blur. I remember seeing another skydiver filming our descent using a camera attached to her helmet. That’s when I had a vague recollection that I was supposed to be on a TV show or something. But it wasn’t until my guide deployed our parachute that my brain starting working again. “Ok, right. I’m not going to die,” I thought to myself. “That’s good.”
My guide tapped me on the shoulder and pointed to our helicopter in the distance. As it grew closer, I could make out the large circular camera attached to the bottom of the frame. My guide shouted, “Say your lines, say your lines!”
I’m not sure who was more surprised when I actually remembered my lines and delivered them without messing up. But the feeling of satisfaction proved short-lived as my non-existent threshold for motion sickness begat wave after wave of nausea.
By now, you’re probably wondering why on earth I’d ever agree to host a show like America Revealed. I guess the short answer is that I’m an idiot. America Revealed is actually based on a BBC series named “Britain From Above,” which examined Britain from an aerial perspective. When Lion Television and PBS first approached me about hosting a new show similar to Britain From Above, I watched the British series and got incredibly excited by what I saw. But I also remember thinking that there was no way I could ever spend that much time in the air.
Yet part of me so wanted to do this that when PBS and Lion decided to call the series “America Revealed” rather than “America From Above,” I convinced myself – in a masterful display of self-rationalization and willful ignorance – that the series had to be filmed on the ground.
A few months later, I found myself pondering the irony of my situation as I continued my slow and windy descent onto Greg Stone’s farm. My nerves were shot and my stomach was twisted in knots by the time my feet finally hit the earth.
The best, though, was yet to come. The crew began congratulating me on making it through the ordeal and not blowing my lines. But when our director, Nic Young, reviewed the tape, he saw that my excitable guide had drowned out my performance with a series of overgesticulated booyahs and hang-tens.
Nic turned to me with an apologetic look that I would eventually come to dread. “I’m really sorry, Yul,” he said. “The footage is unusable. You’re going to have to do it all over again.”
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