Ice Pilots NWT

TV review by
Matt Springer, Common Sense Media
Ice Pilots NWT TV Poster Image
Fascinating cargo pilots swear, smoke, and drink.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

The team's constant struggle to overcome difficult conditions and deliver critical food and supplies to remote towns sends a strong message of perseverance, teamwork, and making the best of difficult surroundings.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The pilots and crew members can be very entertaining to watch, but aren't always great role models for young people. They work hard and play hard, with plenty of drinking, smoking, and off-color humor.


Occasional close calls when airplane malfunctions.


While there is no depiction or suggestion of actual sexual activity, the banter between the crew members on the series is full of sexual references and humor, occasionally explicit, such as a references to "getting it up."


Words like "damn," "hell," and "s--t" are frequent and unbleeped; "f--k" is bleeped. Also, "Goddamned" and "Jesus Christ," used as an exclamation.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Frequent social drinking; several of the lead characters are heavy smokers.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that in this Canadian reality series, which provides a warts-and-all look at an air-cargo company in a harsh environment, strong language is near constant (all but "f--k" is unbleeped). There are no attempts to disguise the subjects as they drink and smoke heavily. Beyond that, the show does provide an interesting portrait of life in a part of the world few of us know anything about. Parents who are comfortable with their teens being exposed to edgier content may find they can enjoy the show together with their kids.

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What's the story?

Buffalo Airways is an airline and cargo delivery service that transports necessary food and supplies to the remotest communities in the Northwest Territories of Canada. ICE PILOTS NWT follows "Buffalo" Joe McBryan, his two sons Mike and Rod, and the rest of the Buffalo crew as they battle the fierce cold and snow, aging aircraft, and sometimes each other in making sure these remote areas get the vital support they need. Buffalo's fleet includes a number of classic vintage aircraft from World War II and throughout the 1950s and 1960s, so the show is also a feast for aviation buffs.

Is it any good?

The template for your average reality show has become hard-wired into the brains of most average TV-watching Americans. That applies especially to the numerous ways in which a reality becomes "reality," where careful editing, pseudo-scripted on-camera interviews, and judicious voiceover can create storylines that may veer wildly from what really happened during filming.

Ice Pilots NWT is as overproduced and carefully packaged as any other reality series. Yet because the people depicted are so colorful and real, there's more true reality that escapes between the cracks. These are tough people living in a tough place, and their lifestyle includes plenty of swearing, smoking, and drinking. Off-color language and jokes are part of the daily fabric of their lives. Still, they're almost relentlessly likeable, and it's easy to get drawn into their day-to-day struggles. It also doesn't hurt that in spite of the fact that they'd do far better business with more modern planes, watching a vintage WWII bomber take off is always a big thrill.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the frequent smoking on the show. Why do you think these pilots and crew smoke so much? Do you think watching smoking onscreen encourages viewers to smoke?

  • Would you ever want to live in such a remote location as the Northwest Territories of Canada or Alaska? Why or why not?

TV details

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