There’s nothing urgent or shocking or baiting about the Sundance Channel’s eight-part documentary series Nimrod Nation, an affable portrait of a wintry, isolated Upper Peninsula community — Watersmeet, Michigan — where hunting, ice fishing, homemade head cheese and high school basketball (the Nimrods are the team name) rule. This makes it a little bit of a breather from the permeating air of heaviness that nonfiction film has taken on of late, when you would be forgiven for assuming the sentence “Hey, have you seen that documentary about .?.?.” ends with “Iraq,” “Darfur,” “Bush,” “global warming,” “obesity,” “cancer,” “that crazy family” or any number of social maladies.
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Nimrod Nation could also be seen as Friday Night Lights without the shattered dreams, alcoholism, doping, adultery, sexual assault and manslaughter. Watersmeet may look pretty frickin’ cold, but nobody seems unhappy. There is a teen pregnancy, but junior Anna not only has the support of the extended family she stays with, but caring friends on the cheerleading squad. And Native American kid Brian Aimsback may not have gotten the same attention — cameras, a news story — a white teammate got when they both reached 1,000 career points, but the other kid is the coach’s son, and, really, what are you gonna do? Brian does a little complaining, then pretty much goes back to digging his girlfriend. Probably the only hard thing to watch is the killing of a family-raised pig we’ve seen frolicking about, but again, this is no exposé of inhumane practices at industrialized feed lots. Even a Nimrod Nation pig looks like it led a happy life. Debuts Monday, ?Nov. 26, 9 p.m.