Hay River’s own McBryan clan and their aircraft will be back on television another year, with Ice Pilots NWT officially renewed for another season as of last week.
“It’s amazing we’ve made it to a sixth season,” said Mikey McBryan, manager for Buffalo Air and one of the stars of the show. “We didn’t ever think we would make it through the first one.”
Film crews were already filming the next season, hoping it would be picked up by a network, McBryan said. He credits next season’s green light to fan support, saying it came late in the day after ratings had come in.
“We’re very fortunate that over the past years we’ve really developed a viewing relationship with the audience,” he said. “The fans are really why we got to go ahead with another season this time around.”
McBryan said representing the reality of life at the airline and in the North on a day-to-day basis can be challenging without any scripting or planning. He said that even within the reality genre, that’s not a common or easy thing.
“It’s a tough show to make for the studio,” he said. “Nothing is set up and they may film for 20 days without anything really happening, and then maybe one day we’ll get an episode.”
One of the first episodes of the new season will feature the storm that hit last week, coating everything in town with a thick layer of ice and making regular tasks really difficult. McBryan said other shows can be much easier to make because they are relatively predictable, in addition to not happening largely in the great outdoors of Northern Canada.
“When I pitched the show originally, I just didn’t know if it would work,” said David Gullason, Ice Pilots NWT’s executive and series producer. “After we shot the pilot, I didn’t really have any doubt the show would be a hit and would get renewed.”
Gullason said the biggest draw are the people at Buffalo Air.
“We follow them, wherever they go, we go, and it works,” he said. “In the world of factual TV, it’s the most authentic thing going.”
As for any celebrity status garnered by five seasons and even his own Lego character, McBryan said the townspeople keep him down to earth.
“No one here is impressed,” he said, laughing.
McBryan said that most recently, his third-grade teacher had seen him while boarding a plane and, after McBryan had asked if she had any homework to assign, told him that she had worried for him when he was a child and wondered what he would do with his life.
“This place keeps me grounded,” he said. “For some of the other guys on shows like ours, it must be tough to walk around their own towns and not be recognized. In Hay River, everyone recognizes you, but nothing is really different.”
McBryan said he tries to work in a Hay River reference in every episode, despite most of the show happening in Yellowknife.
“Buffalo is based here and so are we,” he said.