David Rees found a bit of fame by adding talk bubbles to clip art, first with My New Filing Technique Is Unstoppable and My New Fighting Technique Is Unstoppable and then, more notably, with Get Your War On. That comic strip, a blunt, frequently hilarious savaging of U.S. politics post-9/11, ran until the day George W. Bush left office. (That was by design.)
After it ended, Rees did some writing for Huffington Post and his own blog, and started an artisanal pencil-sharpening service—a flight of fancy that speaks pretty sharply to his personality. He’s interested in details, and he wants to have a fun time getting at them. Which leads pretty directly to Going Deep With David Rees, his new show for the National Geographic Channel.
In each episode, Rees will dive into the particulars of how to do something practical really, really well—unnecessarily well. The journey to making the perfect ice cube, which is tracked in episode one, isn’t one that people will necessarily want to take themselves, but it’s compelling stuff nonetheless. In the ice cube episode, Rees visits a scientist who specializes in studying ice cores pulled from deep within the earth, but he also heads up to Maine to chat with guys who harvest ice the same way it was gathered before there was refrigeration.
The goal is for Rees to learn how to create the perfect ice cube at home—a symmetrical, clear cube on which to pour some whiskey. He does it, though it’s not necessarily something you’ll want to spend time perfecting. All the while, though, he’s funny and charming. In other hands, Going Deep would be too dry; it’s fun to watch Rees goof around with scientists whose job is to create and study completely pure water. (Fun fact revealed by Going Deep: You shouldn’t drink completely pure water, as it will leech electrolytes from your body. The minerals are good for you!)
The second episode, which also airs tonight, is “How To Tie Your Shoes,” a lesson that could change lives but probably won’t. Rees spends much of the half-hour with the world’s foremost shoe-tying expert, who he flies over from Australia. They learn about shoelace strength, looping techniques, and even the potential hazards of wearing shoes at all. Again: It’s a little dry, and in the wrong hands would sound like a public-radio snoozefest brought to life. But Rees sells it with his goofy enthusiasm, which plays like a slightly snarky Bill Nye.