You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

TV Review: ‘Pure Evel: American Legend’

Discovery's look at daredevil Evel Knievel reveals larger-than-life character in present-day context

With:

Narrator: Huey Morgan

Packing a great deal of story into a one-hour package, “Pure Evel: American Legend” tells us as much about where we are now as it does daredevil motorcyclist and ‘70s icon Evel Knievel. Huckster, showman and — in the words of a biographer — in the “Hall of Fame for hedonists,” Knievel pioneered a wedding of TV and extreme sports that has become common currency, as well as a flag-waving streak that played perfectly as a counterpoint to Vietnam-era unrest. Both history and a fascinating profile, “Pure Evel” — timed to what would have been Knievel’s 75th birthday — is purely entertaining.

The documentary begins with Knievel’s disastrous jump at the Snake River Canyon, then goes back to the beginning, and how this Montana-born cowboy and one-time insurance salesman, “driven by ego and fearlessness,” parlayed those qualities into enormous wealth and fame.

As the production makes clear, though, Knievel’s death-defying jumps were characterized as much by the agony of defeat (in this case, crashing and sustaining injuries) as the thrill of victory — borrowing from the catchphrase popularized by ABC’s “Wide World of Sports,” an entity with which Knievel forged a symbiotic relationship, at one point accounting for seven of its 10 top-rated telecasts.

Yet Knievel’s marketing savvy — which included, hilariously, a wildly popular toy line — was also accompanied by other appetites, foremost among them boozing, womanizing and abusing his crews. He also did jail time for administering a beating using a baseball bat to a former employee who dared write a book about him.

What might be most interesting about “Pure Evel” — even more than Knievel’s conversation to Christianity months before his death in 2007 — is how much the daredevil’s routine sounds like it was conceived right now. His mixture of excess, self-promotion and manipulating the media almost reads like a textbook for the Kardashians and any number of others those are famous for being famous.

The Knievel story could have easily accommodated another hour, but in this form it’s tight and tasty. Besides, for all those out there hoping to turn ego and fearlessness into their 15 minutes of fame, “Pure Evel” isn’t just history; it’s homework.

TV Review: 'Pure Evel: American Legend'

(Documentary; Discovery Channel, Mon. Oct. 14, 10 p.m.)

Production:

Produced by Kowalski TV.

Crew:

Executive producers, Simon Howley, Craig Coffman; producer, Peter Johonnett; director, Chris Martin. 60 MIN.

Cast:

Narrator: Huey Morgan

More TV

  • janelle monae Grammys Metoo

    Janelle Monae’s ‘Dirty Computer’ Film to Premiere on MTV and BET 

    Packing a great deal of story into a one-hour package, “Pure Evel: American Legend” tells us as much about where we are now as it does daredevil motorcyclist and ‘70s icon Evel Knievel. Huckster, showman and — in the words of a biographer — in the “Hall of Fame for hedonists,” Knievel pioneered a wedding […]

  • Andrea Riseborough Nancy

    Gabriel Byrne, Andrea Riseborough, Amazon Board Cocaine Drama ‘ZeroZeroZero’

    Packing a great deal of story into a one-hour package, “Pure Evel: American Legend” tells us as much about where we are now as it does daredevil motorcyclist and ‘70s icon Evel Knievel. Huckster, showman and — in the words of a biographer — in the “Hall of Fame for hedonists,” Knievel pioneered a wedding […]

  • Nordic Noir Gets Tropical Twist With

    Nordic Noir Gets Tropical Twist With Canary-Set ‘Crimeshare’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    Packing a great deal of story into a one-hour package, “Pure Evel: American Legend” tells us as much about where we are now as it does daredevil motorcyclist and ‘70s icon Evel Knievel. Huckster, showman and — in the words of a biographer — in the “Hall of Fame for hedonists,” Knievel pioneered a wedding […]

  • Scandal series finale

    'Scandal' Series Finale Recap: The Gladiators Say Goodbye in 'Over a Cliff'

    Packing a great deal of story into a one-hour package, “Pure Evel: American Legend” tells us as much about where we are now as it does daredevil motorcyclist and ‘70s icon Evel Knievel. Huckster, showman and — in the words of a biographer — in the “Hall of Fame for hedonists,” Knievel pioneered a wedding […]

  • Bart Peters

    Former Audience Network Exec Bart Peters Launches Big Branch Productions

    Packing a great deal of story into a one-hour package, “Pure Evel: American Legend” tells us as much about where we are now as it does daredevil motorcyclist and ‘70s icon Evel Knievel. Huckster, showman and — in the words of a biographer — in the “Hall of Fame for hedonists,” Knievel pioneered a wedding […]

  • David Hogg

    TV News Roundup: Freeform, ABC News Team for 'Parkland: For Our Lives' Special

    Packing a great deal of story into a one-hour package, “Pure Evel: American Legend” tells us as much about where we are now as it does daredevil motorcyclist and ‘70s icon Evel Knievel. Huckster, showman and — in the words of a biographer — in the “Hall of Fame for hedonists,” Knievel pioneered a wedding […]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content