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TV REVIEWS : 'Trailside' Seeks Outdoor Adventure

September 25, 1993|ROBERT KOEHLER

See John bike up mountains. See John kayak. See John climb sheer cliffs.

See John while you do nothing.

The strange aspect of watching the four-part series "Trailside: Make Your Own Adventure" (starting at 6:30 tonight on KCET-TV Channel 28) is how its inviting approach to outdoor recreation makes you want to turn the show off and simply do it yourself. On the other hand, those who last did a cardiovascular workout when the President wasn't Bill Clinton might just as soon leave all the huffing and puffing to host John Viehman.

The series' advance publicity was billing it as " 'This Old House' Goes Outdoors," and for once, it's not hype. Like the PBS bible of sweat equity, "Trailside" adopts a friendly attitude as it shows Viehman learning the basics and subtleties of mountain biking, sea kayaking, rock climbing and wet-weather camping. Difficult weekend distractions, but not quite impossible ones.

While Viehman is hardly a city-slicker novice--he's executive editor of Backpacker magazine--he is clearly challenged by the weekly adventures. Tonight shows him trying, and not always succeeding, to master mountain biking in and around Utah's primordial Canyonlands National Park. As with each segment, he's led by an expert (here, it's the low-key Lu Warner) who takes him through the paces.

In the installment on rock climbing, the guide is Paul Borne, who with his way-cool California dude expressions ("I'm always into some altitude") is an odder fit for the mild Viehman than bicyclist Warner, and his more wild-man style leaves out any mention of basics like sun block.

And though we couldn't detect the on-camera use of Hi-Tec hiking boots (one of the show's underwriters), we do wonder why this go-lightly-on-the-land program is also sponsored by Chevy trucks, which don't go lightly on anything.

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