Screen Savors: Cooking a guinea pig

Extreme circus performer Ryan Stock is willing to try anything.

ryan stock 88 (photo credit: )
ryan stock 88
(photo credit: )
It's hot. It's don't touch me or I'll kill you hot. It's don't even think about my making dinner hot. It's if you say one more time we should have gotten air conditioning I will poke your eyes out hot. But it's not too hot for Ryan Stock, the star of Channel 8's new program Guinea Pig. An extreme circus performer, Stock's willing to try anything - including have a meat hook run through his nose and out his mouth and extinguishing a blowtorch with his tongue. Stock is, in other words, my teenage son's new idol. Not all the stunts are totally insane, à la the stuff illusionist Criss Angel does at malls. The point's more to demonstrate just how incredible people who face such daily challenges really are. As for the heat, Stock and his sidekick AmberLynn Walker, are trying to demonstrate just how tough it really is to be a fireman. To demonstrate, Stock tries to emulate whatever the pros do. In this case, that means remaining in a burning kitchen even when you can't stand the heat. The premise is pretty straightforward, as is most of this rather stripped-down Canadian program. Ryan and fiancée AmberLynn turn up for a day with the pros during which Ryan may get decked out in a cool uniform, dunked in freezing cold water or get beaten up by a kung-fu master. "The whole world is my laboratory," crows the bespectacled Stock in the intro, ready to try just about anything. When Stock, and sometimes AmberLynn, are mauled, bashed, frozen, fried or otherwise knocked out, it is fun. We can see why our son thinks it's way cool. But as soon as the pair opens their mouths, well…there's a problem. We watch AmberLynn's core body temperature rise and fall as she tries the various fireman tests after Ryan's knee goes out - and it's entertaining, for a while. But, the scriptwriters need a little firing-up of their own. "The only thing on fire around here is my knee," quips Ryan. We're also subject to suffering through a "hot under the collar" line and, in the kung-fu bit, references to an instructor who "doesn't pull any punches." Groan. Furthermore, a guest expert discussed various scientific facts about heat but was hardly a ball of fire, personality-wise. Zzzz. He reminded me of my high school chemistry teacher, who had a tie featuring all the elements on the Periodic Table. At one point, it even seemed that AmberLynn was a bit tired of the whole thing, noting during one test that the scientist "has assured me there's a point to all of this, but I'm starting not to care." That sums up how I felt about the whole show. Initially, it is cool to see Ryan try such incredibly dodgy stuff. But the ensuing scientific explanations and overall presentation are nowhere near as much fun as the same channel's Brainiacs. Despite our collective admiration for Ryan, his death-wish lifestyle and his chameleon-like ability to adapt to new surroundings and learn new skills, Guinea Pig didn't pass my test for entertainment value. Though it's been a while since I was 19. Our advice: If you're going to watch this with the kids make sure they adhere to the program's warning, one that sounds much like the one displayed prior to televised wrestling, "The experiments in the following Web and TV presentations are performed by professionals in a controlled environment. These tests are extremely dangerous and should not be imitated…ever." Maybe a cage full of guinea pigs is a better idea after all. Guinea Pig airs on Channel 8 several times a day.