TV Review: Unplanned America – Episode 5 – 26th May 2014 (SBS2, Australia)

unplannedcrew

Gonzo, Parv and Nick spend the majority of this episode in Detroit. The once motor industry powerhouse is now the most bankrupt city in the country and a physical metaphor of the failure of the American Dream. Everything from houses to the once grand Michigan Central station are now abandoned and being reclaimed by nature. However, as the boys discover, plenty of creativity has grown out of the chaos.

In addition to the “sick rave parties” that take place amongst the abandoned buildings, the city has become a cultural and artistic hub where both literal and metaphorical grass roots have risen from the ashes of corporate America. As once resident states, “Detroit is full of movers and shakers, and they don’t all have millions in their pockets.”

What they do clearly have is resourcefulness and a newfound sense of community. As the lads discover, hospitality can be found in abundance in the city, as can a revitalized sense of camaraderie. Community gardens are immensely popular, and there has been a rise in open air, all-encompassing potluck dinners.

The overarching message that seems to come out of Detroit is that the citizens are establishing a new American Dream. One that is based upon community, love and sharing instead of capitalism, greed and conformity.

The episode finishes with a trip to Slab City in the Colorado Desert. This off-the-grid wonderland is a safe haven for squatters and unconventional snowbirds. Although thousands flock to the site every year, there are only roughly 150 permanent residents who live there out of poverty or the simple desire to be left alone. One of the most prominent features of the town that the lads explore is a three story high construct that’s been dubbed Salvation Mountain. This is due to its colourful paint job and the festoon of bible verses that coats both the interior and exterior.

Although this short visit was fascinating, I feel like the hearts and minds of most viewers would have still been back in Detroit. The visit to Slab City seemed more like an afterthought (albeit, an interesting one) and would perhaps have been better suited to the beginning of the episode. Leaving the audience pondering over the true meaning of community would have made for a more thought provoking episode that would have stayed with people long after their televisions had been switched off.

Review Score: FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Unplanned America airs at 9:30pm Monday nights on SBS2 or On Demand via the SBS website.