If someone made an unscripted show about the dangers that border police face, you might not expect it to be Al Roker.
Actually, the genial weekday weatherman on NBC's "Today" and co-host of The Weather Channel's "Wake Up With Al" has tackled some heavy subjects in documentaries his company has made. Now comes the A&E series "Bordertown: Laredo," premiering Thursday, Oct. 13.
"It's one of those things where you kind of fall into it," Roker says. "I did a couple of specials for what was then Court TV (now truTV), and one of them was on the crystal meth epidemic. I went to the training facility for the DEA, and coming out of that, I thought, 'Nobody knows what these guys do. This is pretty amazing stuff.'
"Out of that, the 'DEA' series (which Roker made for Spike TV) was born. Then we did specials on the crystal meth and marijuana trades for MSNBC and a special on guns, and we got into that vein. I wasn't planning it; it just kind of happened."
Those programs "indirectly" paved a path for "Bordertown: Laredo," Roker reflects, by helping him establish a reputation for dealing fairly with law enforcement agencies. "The folks in the Laredo (Texas) Police Department made calls to ask, 'What was it like working with them?' We got a thumbs-up, thankfully, and that gave them comfort that we knew what we were doing ... and wouldn't get in the way.
"Look, this is reality TV," Roker notes. "We don't get second chances. This is happening, and it would whether we were there with our cameras or not." And the reality extends to the words used: A drug bust sequence in the first "Bordertown: Laredo" episode contains one of the most sustained language "bleeps" in recent memory, lasting a good 10 seconds or so.
"It's raw, but it's real," Roker acknowledges. "That's what these guys have to deal with. What's fascinating about Laredo, and what I think sets this apart from other shows, is that I don't think we've ever seen a predominantly Hispanic-American police force. These are tough guys, and they get the job done. I think people will really be impressed."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun