One of the underrated pleasures of last season was Richard Hammond's Crash Course, which let uber-host Richard Hammond come over to America and explore some of the country's most difficult occupations. Richard is back for another go-around, this time with some of our more different jobs, starting with trying four days in the life of a Hollywood stuntman.
Palm trees and Graumann's Chinese Theater flash by us before we find Richard driving to the L.A. River in order to meet the trio of professionals who will serve as the experts for this episode: Rick Avery (whose credits include Air Force One, the Mark Wahlberg/Edward Norton remake of The Italian Job, Poseidon, L.A. Confidential and The Dark Knight Rises, to name a few off a very long list), Rick's son Mike, and Thom Williams, who's so good at what he does that he was killed off 24 twice. They're supposed to teach Richard the basics of four key categories in stunt work - fights, falls, fire and cars - so that he can film a BBC America promotional spot for Crash Course.
They head to a training facility on a ranch just outside of the city, where Rick explains to Richard how to throw a stunt punch, and how to take one. Once he's got that down, Mike helps Richard learn how to fake kicking another man in the groin, which is as funny as you think it is. Richard teams with Thom to put both those steps together into a simple combat sequence, and then that's fights quickly out of the way.
Rick then takes Richard to meet Brett A. Jones, who will be helping him learn the art of falling. Brett shows Richard how to do a "face off," which is simply stepping off a platform and turning as you do so that you fall onto your back when you make contact with the mat below. Richard informs us via voice-over that he happens to be afraid of heights, which makes this part of the training all the more nervewracking for him. Just standing eight feet up on a ladder bothers him.
Just when he's talked himself into doing that, Rick wants to bring him up onto a thirty-foot-high tower to do a high fall onto an airbag. Richard is scared just doing the climb up, even as Rick tells him that it won't be any different than the eight-foot fall he just practiced, except for more airtime. When Richard reaches the top of the tower, he's "genuinely terrified" and has to again talk himself into stepping off the very small platform. He finally goes for it, and is commended by the stuntmen waiting below; Rick says that he's "doing really well."
The next day, the team takes over a vacant office somewhere in the city for Richard to work on fighting, with the help of fight coordinator Dave Morizot. Rick explains the storyline that sets up the fight sequence: Richard is "the annoying guy in the office" who makes the mistake of taking Thom's sandwich. Dave then walks Richard through the fight he's laid out, which includes a spinning office chair, breaking some things, and the grand finale of Richard being thrown through a window. All this amounts to several complex fight sequences, which they'll work on one at a time.
After a lot of rehearsal and a change into wardrobe, it's time to shoot. Thom enters the cubicle he shares with Richard, drops off his sandwich, and Richard not only steals it but knees him in the groin when he comes back looking for it. Richard then turns to walk away and is confronted by two more colleagues played by Mike and Dave. Thom, who's recovered from the cheap shot, punches Richard in the face and knocks him back into his desk chair, but when the chair spins around Richard accidentally kicks Dave out of the way. Then he breaks a football over Thom's head. That's part one.
Part two is pretty quick, with Richard trying to evade all of his coworkers and Thom getting stuck under a falling set of shelves full of bankers' boxes. In the next part, he's supposed to jump into the next cubicle, and on his first try he steps on a prop and breaks it. The second time, however, it's pencils and later staples in the face for poor Dave, as Richard makes his escape. "This is my promo, I'm the star, and this is my sandwich," he tries to tell everyone, but Thom doesn't agree. Yet when he goes to snatch the sandwich from Richard, it ends up on the floor, causing widespread laughter. Cut!
The last part of the promo involves Thom throwing Richard through a window, so it's time for fake glass to be installed. Richard does not appear to relish the idea of being thrown through anything. "This is ridiculous," he moans, but does it anyway, and gets a round of applause once the glass is cleared away from his face and he can get up. Rick calls the shoot very successful, but lets slip that Richard will have to jump off a bridge the next day.
The bridge in question is the 6th Street Bridge in downtown Los Angeles, which you've seen in countless movies and television shows, and it's a thirty-foot fall for Richard. "I've got a leg wobble coming on already," he says as he's standing on the platform that he'll be expected to step off of. Context is everything. (As Brett gives Richard some last-minute advice, it's interesting to note that his T-shirt has the old, first-season logo for Crash Course on its sleeve.)
Richard steps onto the platform, delivers some dialogue from its edge, and takes the fall into a giant airbag below. Rick commends him, Brett tells us he did exactly what he wanted him to do, and Richard says that "I can scratch jumping off a bridge off my bucket list...which it was never on." So what's next?