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Viewers Are in for Some Wild Rides


With the holiday weekend winding down, the Discovery Channel delivers a jolting three-hour block of programming tonight likely to leave you a little woozy in the head and even a bit queasy in the stomach.

No, it's not a Tom Green film festival, but back-to-back-to-back specials on one of America's favorite mindless pleasures: the amusement park roller coaster. Like the attractions themselves, the programs have their ups and downs, but coaster fans will get a kick out of the camera work, armchair travelers will enjoy the scenery, and everyone will pick up some interesting factoids along the way.

"Top 10 Coasters 2002" gets things rolling at 8 p.m., followed by "Extreme Rides 2002" at 9, with "Ultimate Guide: Roller Coasters" bringing up the rear starting at 10.

"Top 10" may be of most interest to the casual rider. The program takes viewers on an enjoyable coast-to-coast tour of the creme de la creme of the white-knuckle world, with the rankings--actually a top 5 of wooden coasters and a top 5 of the metal monsters--derived from an online survey conducted by Discovery Channel during the past year.

I won't reveal the ultimate champions, but a pair of local attractions, Knott's Berry Farm's GhostRider and Six Flags Magic Mountain's Goliath, are among contenders.

The you-are-there filming technique is a blessing and a curse. The visuals are spectacular, but the incessant screaming, along with the strangled attempts at narration from the rider/host, get old fast.

Six Flags' latest thrill ride, known simply as X, is among four of the cutting-edge coasters profiled in the "Extreme Rides" program that follows. The final show, "Ultimate Guide," examines why people tend to either love coasters or hate them, and also looks at the safety measures that allow you to live to ride again.

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