The Real Urban Lumberjacks: Big Bad Wood Premieres Tonight

A city is no place for a lumberjack. Felling trees in urban areas is a dangerous game; crews must dodge deadly power lines and expensive real estate to finish the job. But when there’s a tree sandwiched in the middle of a metropolis, it’s up to the urban tree cutters of Big Bad Wood to take it down.

In the Big Bad Wood series opener, four fearless crews fell enormous trees in the middle of Greater Boston, all with their own distinct flair.

Urban cutter Rich Yurewitz calls his crew at American Climbers the “cowboys of the industry.” “We’re not upper echelon of the tree companies, but those jobs that no one else wants, we get in and get it done,” he says. His team’s mission for the day is tough: taking a 70 foot box elder in a narrow yard stuck between the owner’s house and several power lines. And to make matters worse, there’s an locked car parked right in the drop zone.

Who better than to run a shipshape tree cutting company than a military man? Foreman John Haehnel and his crew at Tree Tech made their name in the tree cutting business with their high-tech fleet. “We get the call when all the big jobs come up. ’cause we got the equipment to get it done,” Haehnel says. “I’m a former Marine and I like to run a tight ship.” When a Tree Tech climber goofs off and nearly crushes the crew with a falling branch, Haehnel is forced to lay down the law while keeping his team together.

For the guys of Specialized Rigging and Tree Care, urban tree cutting is a purist endeavor. “We’re climbers, that’s our niche,” says owner Jay Relouf. “We don’t use any machinery. Just four guys using our expertise do it all by hand, so we’re real craftsmen.” Relouf’s crew may see their work as art, but will their old-school tactics be enough to take down a 100 foot white pine?

Brian Kittery, the owner of the small “Mom and Pop shop” All Season Tree Service, has the biggest challenge of the day – a drunk crew. His number one man Jimmy “The Goat” Scannell hit the sauce at 7 a.m., and when Kittery tries to send him home, a nasty fight breaks out, endangering the day’s work.

In the precarious world of urban tree cutting, not every crew can succeed. Find out which teams come out on top on the series premiere of Big Bad Wood, tonight at 9P.


  1. Robert Polen
    West Grove,PA
    October 17, 2013, 9:15 pm

    NATGEO ,I just viewed your new series “Big Bad Wood”.i must say I was not impressed with the series.As a tree professional with 30 years experience.I saw so many safety violations with all four companies,that is enough to shut all four of them down.I like your shows.I am very dissopointed that you are featuring these guys . It is a discrace to our profession.I am very dissopointed.The show is all over a Fourm of tree climbers from around the world.We all laughed at it.Please E mail me and will get some real tree guy stuff going on.

  2. Peter Thomas Schneppen
    Costa Rica
    October 19, 2013, 8:04 pm

    Thank you for the great show of Big Wood. Since i saw it i am really disappointed about your channel. Where is the connection to the image of National Geographic, or are you just cheap junk ? The level of professionally of your productions is really low. You should change your Chanel’s name. Stupid American workers as clowns are representing the truth about us. Entertainment on the shoulder of others? This is very disappointing from you. I will have to inform the International Association of Arboricultura about their bad level of certificates.

    Please give me a feedback .

  3. Tj Wright
    Cambridge City, Indiana
    October 20, 2013, 2:33 pm

    I just wanted to say i have watched the show Big Bad Wood. And that is in no way how it is done. I am a tree trimmer, have been for 13 years. And i have never ever had to use a crain to take down a tree. Some of the things these guys do is just dumb. That is in no way how things are done on a job site. I have taken down trees bigger, taller, and never had to use any thing but a chain saw and rope. We have a bucket truck that goes 65 feet in the air and i have roped down trees that people said was just impossible to do. I just think if your gonna do a show about tree trimmers you should actullay video somebody that really knows what there doing. These guys make tree trimmers look bad by some of the things they do. I have never droped a log on a car before, or tore up anything. Just my thoughts on it. Thanks T.J.

  4. Lisa
    Cape cod
    October 22, 2013, 8:31 pm

    For someone who is not in the profession and just looking for entertainment I was highly satisfied. Loved it and all my friends did too. God for bid u guys smile or have fun. Take the stick (or tree) out your ass and enjoy the show. Nick Is AWESOME!!!! It’s about ratings. And characters play a big part in reality tv. Don’t take everything so serious! More nick!!!!

  5. Terry Ann Roche
    Vero Beach,FL
    October 22, 2013, 8:43 pm

    We watched the premiere of Big Bad Wood, and we were all impressed with the show!! It’s amazing what these tree companies have to do on a daily basis. I was on the edge of my seat a few times. I was more impressed with Tree Trech Inc. they seemed more professional and more knowledgable. We will keep watching every week. As always National Geographic channel has the best shows!!

  6. Trisha
    east bridgewater MA
    October 22, 2013, 8:54 pm

    The violations are probably staged as well as half the incidents..didnt know everyone believes what they see on TV.. nice to see small businesses in my area have a shot at fame. Not the richer get richer as it always seems anyways … One episode aired and sad to see the reviews are negative.. lets see what the rest of the season does.

  7. JB Holdway
    Western Maryland
    October 23, 2013, 7:32 am

    As I feared, your show is a thinly disguised drama that puts the tree care industry in a very bad light. I understand that you have to market your tv-production in a way that sells to the suits. However, you are doing a disservice to the profession and to the public by artificially portraying tree care as an irresponsible, unprofessional trade.

    It would have been much better and more responsible, on your part, if you had positioned your production along the lines of a true documentary like “How do they do it”, as seen on the Science Channel. It would have been a much better service to the public if you had shown how a true professional tree care operations are performed so the public would be properly educated about contracting a responsible company and avoiding the *contrived* atrocities you presented.


    Based upon many comments on many arborist forums, your first production is an embarrassment to Certified Arborist around the world. Your show will, most certainly, cost professional Tree Services in lost business and income. It also mis-informs the public and leaves them with an unfounded fear and mis-conception about the necessity of timely and professional tree care.

    I pray that your tv-production does not result in personal injury or property damage due to the mis-information you present.

    JB Holdway

  8. Chip Hildreth
    Chapel Hill, NC
    October 23, 2013, 8:04 am


    We are TRYING to separate the professionals from the hacks in this business and you just run them together like they are all exemplary.
    You have set arboriculture back several critical years with your viewers. This is irresponsible.

    What happened to thd National Geographic that the pinnacle of print journalism? Reality shows? No integrity at all, just following the crowd. Big Bad Wood is bad alright, bad for us, bad for you.

  9. Sarah
    Blackstone MA
    October 23, 2013, 11:29 am

    Awesome show my husband works for tree tech and I can say that the first episode was great! Showed all different ways and techniques to tree work, from the old ways to knew ways. Can’t wait to see more and all you people who have been doing it for years without a crane, watch the rest of the series and you can see why they need it. Some jobs they have to do that other companies can’t. And I know for a fact that NOTHING is staged. Stay tuned in and watch the rest

  10. Tony Knight
    October 23, 2013, 12:43 pm

    The preview alone demonstrates to me Nat Geo has not only lost its way but has perished in the wilderness of journalism. “Reality drama” is nothing more than fictional dysfunction. I place your journalism in the category or genre of Jerry Springer and alike. Damn shame to see a once pinnacle doco producer selling itself short and out. Please don’t send this rubbish to Australia to insult Arborists.

    Ex reader and viewer.

  11. Robert Albritton
    Douglasville Ga.
    October 23, 2013, 4:39 pm

    I must say I was Very Disappointed with the first episode of Big Bad Wood,, as a TREE CARE PROFESSIONAL and Instructor with 24 years experience ,, these guys have no clue on safety, I’m surprised OSHA hasn’t already stepped in and shut down production ,, I know y’all are looking for ratings but this is giving the Tree care Industry a bad name,, surely the National Geographic has better things to offer,,,

  12. Bob Kaller
    Bucks County Pa.
    October 23, 2013, 6:05 pm

    It’s incredible how blind people are, even some of the ones making the above comments. Yes, the show portrayed many safety issues that weren’t followed. No, the professionalism wasn’t evident in a lot of instances. Yes, OSHA would have had a field day handing out fines to several of these tree services. No, most arborists do not act like them, nor do they perform their work with disregard … most of the time!
    Fact is, I have witnessed this much disregard, and more in the last 3 1/2 decades that would fill up several seasons of your show. The day-to-day misgivings on the job are plentiful, and there is more drama, stress, mistakes, lack of safety, and injuries because of this disregard.
    This is a pretty good indicator of the typical, self taught tree guy who buys a chain saw and claims to be a tree man. Lack of training, lack of knowledge of the job, and taking chances that most intelligent human beings would never dream of doing.
    It is also common for the boss or “owner” to show the job details to the climber or crew, then sneak off to do estimates, errands, or whatever, not to be seen again, until the job is completed. Therefore, the crew is unsupervised and anything can happen.
    I know this is what actually happens on the job. There are probably more drug and alcohol incidents than anything that are unseen for lack of detection. Fact is, many of these companies do not drug test, it is a difficult job, very hard work, and the employees party hard as well. You’d be surprised how many climbers are “high” literally when climbing these tall trees.
    I don’t like the way we are being portrayed here either, but it is a fact of life, even worse than what we witnessed on TV. But this is not how a true “Arborist” conducts business.

  13. Seth Wilson
    United States
    October 23, 2013, 7:04 pm

    this is a great show especially for an aspiring Arborist they are great companies that show how tough the job is and show the dangers

  14. Mike Henry
    Unites states
    October 24, 2013, 4:03 pm

    To work near power wires either additional training is required for arborists or they need to be Certified Line Clearance trimmers or Utility Arborists (there may be different terminology for various countries). There is a variety of minimum distances that must be kept from power wires depending on voltage, however the common distance for low voltage lines in urban settings is 10 feet (about 3 metres).[1]

    Arborists who climb (as not all do) can use a variety of techniques to ascend into the tree. The least invasive, and most popular technique used is to ascend on rope. When personal safety is an issue, or the tree is being removed, arborists may use ‘spikes’, (also known as ‘gaffs’ or ‘spurs’) attached to their chainsaw boots with straps to ascend and work. Spikes wound the tree, leaving small holes where each step has been.

    An arborist’s work may involve very large and complex trees, or ecological communities and their abiotic components in the context of the landscape ecosystem. These may require monitoring and treatment to ensure they are healthy, safe, and suitable to property owners or community standards. This work may include some or all of the following: planting; transplanting; pruning; structural support; preventing, or diagnosing and treating phytopathology or parasitism; preventing or interrupting grazing or predation; installing lightning protection; and removing vegetation deemed as hazardous, an invasive species, a disease vector, or a weed.

    Arborists may also plan, consult, write reports and give legal testimony. While some aspects of this work are done on the ground or in an office, much of it is done by arborists who climb the trees with ropes, harnesses and other equipment. Lifts and cranes may be used too. The work of all arborists is not the same. Some may just provide a consulting service; others may perform climbing, pruning and planting: whilst others may provide a combination of all of these services.[2]….here is definition of an aborists…..I see equipment such as cranes etc listed here, so I don’t see where the issue is…,thank you Nat Geo for a GREAT SHOW!! Every person is different and every company is different, I plan to keep watching!!

  15. mike
    October 24, 2013, 11:31 pm

    I’ve been climbing trees professionally for 7 years now. Worked for a few different companies and am glad I don’t work for these guy’s. I don’t like the way natgeo is dramatizing tree work or making it seem like theres no control over the removal.
    Maybe natgeo would be willing to film a professional tree crew doing a difficult removal, without the drama. And dedicating the entire show from setup to finish of a single removal. Instead of bits and pieces smothered with good ratings behavior.

  16. Bob
    Suburbs of Boston
    October 25, 2013, 7:54 am

    For once I can watch a reality show and have some familiarity with the participants. I know some of these guys and their capabilities 1st hand. I have a great appreciation for the job they do and their ability to do it. I’m sure the episodes we see have been put together by the editors in order to capture the greatest drama effect possible and some people may not appreciate that.
    Doing the work these men do and in the locations they are expected to perform it would prevent them from staying in business very long if they were not 100% capable and qualified for the job. It’s dangerous, demanding work and the people doing it have to be very capable and totally enjoy what they are doing in order to be successful. I congratulate Nat Geo and the crews for their work in putting this series together. I am totally enjoying it

  17. BJ
    Minneapolis, Mn.
    October 25, 2013, 8:34 am

    I would like to have someone contact me about doing another show like Big Bad Wood, in our locale. Thank you.

  18. will Bazil
    Cleveland Ohio
    October 27, 2013, 7:15 pm

    Just wanted to say thanks for the show I really enjoyed watching it I’ve been climbing trees for a number of years now and it’s nice to see a show dedicated to what I do

  19. Rico Ruiz
    Neenah, WI
    October 30, 2013, 10:35 pm

    I have seen the show and I am not impressed. I have 19 years climbing experience and 5 years as a tree service owner. Today a customer came to me and asked if I saw the show and told me how bad the show made our industry look. He almost did want the tree removed till I talked to him. I hope the show gets better. I think natgeo should look for better talent

  20. daniel Smith
    San Francisco California
    November 1, 2013, 8:13 am

    I am a professional tree climber I have been climbing trees for 20 years in that time I’ve seen every mistake that I witnessed on your episode last night I feel that you have for trade tree climbers and the tree care industry in a bad lightit is interesting to see how other tree companies performand I have work for aspiring tree companies that needed to improve their safety programs I am a union tree climber and m. Regulated by every safety standard there is and 1 case you had a tree company felling trees with no hard hats no safety gloves no chat appsor safety glassesshows like axeman really put a bad light on our industry and it just blows me away that she’ll take any Tom Dick and Harry tree company to put on TV so the public can laugh at clowns why don’t you just do a reality series on a circus thank you very much.

  21. Molly D
    Balto, MD
    November 2, 2013, 6:33 pm

    I work for an urban tree care company in Maryland and very disappointed in the National Geographic Channel for this show. The idea of following urban tree crews around and documenting their obstacles is a wonderful idea. It is very interesting, very entertaining, and could be very educational for the general public.

    However, I think the crews on Big Wood are completely unprofessional, irresponsible, and are giving the industry a horrible reputation. The lack of personal protective equipment in many scenes is disturbing. So many people have been injured and killed not wearing PPE. It truly makes me sad that NatGeo would record and air shots of individuals being completely reckless with their lives. There are so many tree care companies that do amazing work in the safest possible way for both themselves, their team mates, and the customer.

    I hope that the show is renewed but with companies that take their reputation as professionals seriously.

  22. Victor L
    minneapolis mn
    November 5, 2013, 9:16 pm

    I would be a lot cooler if you filmed companies that complied with anzi standards and are up to date with the latest rigging and climbing technics . Your show shames my profession !

  23. Rob R.
    Pittsburgh, PA
    November 7, 2013, 11:38 pm

    I love it that you guys decided to put a show on like this. I been in the tree business for almost 20 years, and I gotta say that this job is one or if not the most dangerous jobs out there. I enjoy the show but these guys are all clowns putting on a act, trying to be funny and making the job sound like it’s so hard to do when it’s really not. I can do 3 to 5 jobs similar to to the same jobs they are doing in one day. They try to be funny but they really should be embarrassed watching this show at home in front of their friends and family. They wanna see a hard working crew , doing some difficult trees. You need to come follow my crew around Pittsburgh and you will be impressed. Plus we got our couple of drunks too what will give the audience some laughs.

  24. Charley Ogden
    United States
    November 8, 2013, 12:59 am

    I have been an Arborist and tree company owner for 23 years, I ,use this show as a tool for my crew and my kids twin 8 year old girls and a 12 year old boy who are all better tree workers than those utterly stupid, foolish, idiots, as a teaching tool of what NEVER to do. So my kids and crew pray for people like this.

  25. Chad Szpunar
    Albuquerque, NM
    November 8, 2013, 10:47 pm

    Been climbing/rigging for 8 years in business. If I were ignorant to what it takes to perform SAFE and proper tree care/removal and was watching this show, I would be terrified to hire out services needed. VERY POOR depiction of what it takes to be SAFE, efficient, and successful in the industry.

    There’s an such an abundance of safety violations and screw up’s on all four crews that it makes me question if NATGEO stages operations for entertainment. Somebody needs to educate the producer(s) the work alone is intriguing, entertaining, and dangerous enough on its own. We don’t need a bunch of clowns making us look bad!

  26. Jim P
    Coventry RI
    November 9, 2013, 10:39 pm

    Really all the tree services in New England and they pick these crews I’ve been doing tree work in RI and MA for the last 12 years and to have these guys picked to represent residential tree companies is a joke. My crew just took a monster pine tree down today that tree tech had given the homeowner a ridiculous price and then told her it was going to take three days to do it. Well we showed up at 8 o’clock set up all our trucks and we were done by lunch. Why dont they put real crews on tv not a bunch of hackers?

  27. Janet Anne
    November 10, 2013, 3:47 pm

    I think your new show Big Bad Wood is terrific!! I have a crew of friends that come over every week to watch and we all find it fascinating what these men do and how they do it!! I do find it funny that reading your comments on the show that most of the people think they can do it better or that they some how know it all, jealousy is a terrible thing and they shouldn’t be so negative of fellow workers that do the same thing. I hope you keep the show and the same crews, I just got so I know who everyone is and again I think your show is great!!

  28. jim
    va. beach va.
    November 14, 2013, 9:31 pm

    Just another unreal realality show. I just watched “Demon wood” episode and its diffenently “scripted”. Bucket truck breaks down with boom extended and a worker breaks OSHA regs and scales the boom to the ground. Any fool knows to pull the hydrolic release handle to bring a boom down. Im very dissapointed in natgeo,but i guess its all in the catchy new hip name.

  29. Tammy
    November 14, 2013, 9:44 pm

    My husband has been doing tree work in Texas for over 25 years. A lot of days the temperature is over 100 degrees. I have watched my husband and his crew do jobs that these guys are doing with just ropes, chainsaws and ladders. And most jobs are done in a day. Tree work is dangerous “backbreaking”work. It has to be methodically planned to ensure safetey. Damaging customers property should not be a common occurrence. I would like to invite nat geo to Texas!

  30. A real lumberjack
    November 21, 2013, 9:34 pm

    The worst show on tv. Gilly is a hack and embarrassment to all in the trade. I will be glad when they finally put something worth watching on tv. Take off the air please

  31. Sean Kroll
    United States
    November 23, 2013, 10:16 am

    Attention TV land viewer. This is not reality on this reality show.

    As a professional, ISA Certified Arborist and business owner with a great track record for safety, productivity and crew cohesiveness, I have to say that this doesn’t reflect professional tree care or removal services. This made for TV un-reality showcases drama. It could be paid for by soap companies. We will just have to wait to find out one season was just a coma-induced dream by one of our protagonists.

    I would be happy to be on the show, but productivity, calmness, dependability, and little drama doesn’t make for good un-reality TV.

    PLEASE make a disclaimer at the beginning, and after each commercial that this is not reality, or better yet, take this nonsense off the air.

    There are so many reputable professionals in the field that impress seasoned professionals with their skills which could be showcased instead.

  32. Sean Kroll
    Olympia, WA
    November 23, 2013, 10:19 am

    P.S. Does governing bodies ignore all of the broadcast safety infractions, does NG cover the expenses, or is the advertising enough for the companies to pay all the fines for the safety violations that are evident to professionals that know what reality of tree work really is?

  33. Sean
    Norwell Massachusetts
    November 24, 2013, 6:57 pm

    Great show I really enjoyed it. You should make a tv series on back yard excavation. I would sign up to do that

  34. javier quiroz
    November 29, 2013, 10:04 pm

    What a Joke ! Show some real tree guys ,these guys give our industries a bad name ,, Later In SO-CAL

  35. Matt
    Burlington NC
    December 4, 2013, 9:42 pm

    I thought the show was great!! I’m not an arborist but I have been through an arboriculture class and have some experience in cutting and pruning trees. There might be some safety issues at times on the show but its probably planned that way to show people the dangers. It is a little over-dramatic at times but it shows what these guys go through and it shows some exciting footage. I hope there is another season.

  36. karen perry
    December 5, 2013, 10:17 pm

    This show is ridiculous. My husband had been in this industry for over 30 years. He will not give this show the ratings because they dont deserve it. I wish i had a dollar for every timt Tree Tech says someome is going to die! Give me a break. Have a real tree company show how its done! Would never call these companies! You make yourself look STUPID!

  37. branch managers tree service
    dittmer missouri
    December 12, 2013, 10:57 pm

    just saw your show for the first time and only one word comes to mind COMICABLE i’ve been in the bis my entire life born and raised to be a pro and these guys your promoting are not it .Dont know if thisCRAP is staged or what but PLEASE take these people off the air. I was a utility line clearence pro for years ,trained guys ,ran crews ect.ect.ect now i run my own company and if i did things like these guys I’D QUIT.please remove these jokers they are giving REAL PROS a bad name certified and not.ALSO just to add one more note you dont have to be certified to be a pro cuz i have meet plenty of CERTIFIED ARBOISTS who are as full of it as a septic tank

  38. branch managers tree service
    dittmer missouri
    December 12, 2013, 11:03 pm

    PS had to explain to my son who is a climber in the making that what he saw was not really the way things are done he stopped me and said i can see that dad you know i am 12 now

  39. willy
    newton ma
    December 13, 2013, 11:06 am

    for people saying its fake its not i watched them film it down the street from where i live. there was no staging no setting up props it was just them cutting down trees and nat geo filming it

  40. john
    New Jersey
    December 17, 2013, 5:22 pm

    This is a great show. It’s the only reality show that I can relate to; I’ve had guys like this cut and trim trees in my yard several times. How many people have the the remotest connection to gold mining in Alaska or the Amazon or building underground bunkers for doomsday? That’s ridiculous nonsense; tree cutting service is something lots of people use. The guys that do it are a little wild and crazy. Maybe risking serious injury or your life every day makes you like that. God bless them!

  41. Sean
    December 20, 2013, 9:06 am

    This show is gold. I hope nat geo puts on more shows that people can relate to.

    December 23, 2013, 9:17 pm

    Pathetic. How did you pick theses guys? How they can be so incompetent and own such nice equipment doesn’t make sense. People in New England must have lots of $ to support such clueless companies.

  43. Bruce Deveas Jr.
    Hampstead md
    December 27, 2013, 1:05 am

    Are you kidding me after watching this show I feel disrespected as a tree climber that the best they could find to represent our industry was some of the biggest hacks I’ve ever seen I’ve been an arborist for 10 years and it was imbarsing to watch those idiots discrase the intire tree industry sad and hard to watch armatures do tree work

  44. Alicia
    the backwoods of PA
    January 9, 2014, 6:38 pm

    I was wondering what happened to the show I enjoyed watching it and then wham its off the air what happened

  45. Trisha Rush
    Whitsett NC
    January 9, 2014, 8:26 pm

    After watching this show…. wow! Although I laughed extremely hard many times at the idiocy that the show presents these “professionals” for having, I am shocked that this made the air. My fiancé has been doing tree work all his life and has done most with just a pick up truck, trailer, ropes, oh and some common sense!! I’ve only been around this profession for the past 5 and half years and I could see so many things that were wrong with what they were doing before they even finished. Tree companies already have a hard time with people trusting them because of all the bad, fly by night tree men. To make these celebrities by giving them a show? Not sure that was a great decision. If your really interested in doing a show about tree companies, give the guy who has the common sense, drive, and the saw dust covered clothes a chance to be “The Big Bad Wood”! That is all! CNC Tree Service.

  46. tater
    November 2, 2014, 7:31 pm

    it”s nice to see how negative people are lets put you under a microscope and see if you ever mess up I’m sure your not as great as you think you are