National GeographicNat Geo Wild


What does this series offer?

We live in a technologically advanced world and often take for granted all the benefits and conveniences of modern living. But in order to catch a flight on a plane, fill up our gas tank with fuel or even simply turn on a light switch, we need the infrastructure in place and the people who can build, maintain and fix it. We wanted to show the unsung heroes of industry, ordinary people doing extraordinary things.

What sets this series apart from other “on-the-job” types of shows?

The series is tackling some very big stories, and rather than playing the role of a conventional host, Sean Riley’s aim is to get as close to the action as possible, get to the heart of the fix and into the minds of the folks who are carrying it out.

The series has a great combination of heart-stopping action and loads of detail. We take viewers on the front lines of jobs that keep the world turning, and the serious problems they encounter on a daily basis. These are big-time fixes that have real-world consequences. We brainstormed and searched for fixes on a monster scale that are not only unique and visually interesting but also take viewers into environments in a way that has not been seen before on television.

Our host, Sean Riley, also makes this series unique. Unlike many hosts, Sean is not just there introducing us to the characters and explaining what is happening. He IS part of the fix. He is actively involved with the “fix crew,” genuinely excited by the subject matter, and he sometimes offers up his own expertise in building and rigging. He really gets in there to help and to learn, and that helps viewers feel like they are inside these unique experiences as well.

How did you go about finding these big fixes?

We research every means possible, from news stories to word of mouth, to find real situations that could be featured in each episode. Then we contact global brand-name companies, like Siemens and Boeing, to find out who specialises in the large-scale repair and replacement jobs they need to get the job done.

How did you get access to these high-security locations (e.g., nuclear power plant)? Did you gain exclusive access?

Understandably, there is a reluctance to grant access to certain areas on each fix because, for the most part, these are very dangerous work environments. There is extremely heavy machinery, adverse conditions and, in many cases, lethal hazards at these sites. Every move is precise and extremely well choreographed by the crews that do these jobs on a regular basis. Project managers are quite rightly concerned about having to take on the additional responsibility for a film crew.

Despite the challenges, we are able to secure rare, and at times exclusive, access to places the audience has probably never seen before and will probably never get to, from the inside of a nuclear turbine to riding in a helicopter and working on live electrical wires.

How was it working with the companies involved in each fix?

Though the series title is World’s Toughest Fixes, we focus on how diligently, how creatively, how expertly the crews repair the damage — not on who or what caused the damage.

We are certainly pleased and fortunate to have the cooperation of such important global organisations as Boeing, Siemens, Heerema and the others. Also, you are only as good as your weakest link, right? And as far these companies and their engineers and maintenance repair teams go, they are the best in the business.

How did you find your host, Sean Riley?

We found Sean Riley on! Or should I say, he found us on Craigslist. We wanted someone articulate, charismatic, fresh and game for anything — and with “Riley,” as he likes to be called, we got the complete package. He has a passion for problem solving and is also a master rigger with years of real-world experience in these industrial situations. As a result, he understands the complexity and magnitude of the fixes we are showcasing on the series. He is genuinely excited and interested in how the fix crews overcome the various problems that arise during the course of a fix. Thus he can highlight those hurdles to his film crew, often while they are happening, giving the program an immediacy, a sense of being there, that can only be realised by being on-site for the duration of the fix. This immersion, in turn, will engage the audience in a very honest and real way, and offers an insight into the people involved in the fix and the environment in which they are working.

What other big fixes can we see this season?

Future fixes include repairing a cell phone network by scaling a 600-metre tall tower in the U.S., cleaning an irreplaceable 20-ton lens on a telescope at an observatory in the Chilean desert and witnessing a valve replacement on the Alaska Pipeline.

Are there any fixes you didn’t do that you would like to feature in the series?

I would love to work with NASA. Maybe next season.