So, I checked out a couple of ABC's summer reality shows that aired last night. Quick spoilers for "Wipeout" and "I Survived a Japanese Game Show" coming up just as soon as I watch "Lost in Translation"...
There are many, many, many lines from "The Simpsons" that have worked their way into my vernacular as both a person and a critic, and none moreso than Homer explaining his film festival voting philosophy in "A Star Is Burns": "Barney's movie had heart, but 'Football in the Groin' had a football in the groin."
"I Survived a Japanese Game Show" is, to a certain extent, about the juvenile joy of seeing people take metaphorical footballs to the groin. "Wipeout" is about nothing else.
If you've watched ABC at all this summer, you've essentially seen all "Wipeout" has to offer: people of various shapes, sizes and ages all falling face-first into the mud while trying to complete an obstacle course that's been designed to be all but impossible to finish unscathed.
Actually, no -- the commercials were actually better than the show, because they (at least the ones I saw) didn't feature the play-by-play of John Henson, who's so insufferable that I wanted him to be forced to go through the stage with the boxing gloves over and over and over again. I remember liking Henson once upon a time when he hosted "Talk Soup," but here his barbs were as cheap and obvious as the show itself: Ha-ha, this woman's fat! Ha-ha, he's a little bit effeminate! Ho-ho, that guy's old!
The ad campaign blitz obviously worked, as "Wipeout" pulled in nearly 10 million viewers, and actually improved half-hour to half-hour. Some of that is a function of it airing at 8 o'clock (more people are watching TV at 8:30 than 8, so most hour-long shows in that timeslot go up), but clearly there was a good-sized summer audience who didn't find it repetitive, lazy and kind of insufferable. I can't see ever wanting or needing to watch it again; I'm hopeful (but not optimistic) that the novelty will wear off quickly.
There's plenty of humiliation in "I Survived a Japanese Game Show" as well, but there it's so varied and strange -- and very much in keeping with what I understand of those shows -- that it doesn't get repetitive or annoying. I'm not sure I ever need to see it again -- the reality show aspects felt, if not unnecessary, than so predictable that I didn't care -- but if I happened to come across one of the actual game show sequences while channel-surfing, I could see myself stopping for a couple of minutes.
Once again, viewers didn't agree with me. It dropped two million viewers from the end of "Wipeout," then lost another million and a half at the half-hour mark.
What did everybody else think?