Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Oh, my groin!

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?


David Clarke said...

I watched this show at the gym yesterday, with no audio and without the supposedly insufferable commentary, and I found it to be...well, a rip-off of G4's Ninja Warrior. The big difference? While Ninja Warrior consists of people falling into the mud, it also has its share of real athletes who can actually make it through the first few rounds (and even when they don't, it's still exciting). From what I could see, there was no athleticism in "Football in the Groin," just people who responded to the casting call and wanted to be on TV.

I'd rather watch Hans Moleman for a half an hour than another episode of Wipeout.

Anonymous said...

I was fine with Henson, though there's some residual Talk Soup goodwill there for me, too. The only painful thing about Wipeout is the fact that there's actually something to win, and that the final obstacle course just isn't fun.

But I could seriously, seriously, seriously watch people try the Big Balls (and listen to Henson say "Big Balls") for an hour at a time. First half of Wipeout is a keeper.

I also think that MXC (aka "Japanese People Hurting Themselves") is the greatest television show ever made. So, context.

Shocked to tune in and find out "I Survived..." was a series and not a one-off special. As a solo special with lots of bizarre footage, it would have been great. I don't care about inane rickshaw punishments or travelogues or any other batch of reality show contestants.

In conclusion, Big Balls.

Anonymous said...

Completely agree regarding Henson's commentary. I'm kind of a sucker for the football in the groin -- and hence for the whole America's Funniest Home Video/YouTube sports blooper genre -- but the advantage of YouTube over AFV (nee AFHV) is the absence of unnecessary and irritating commentary. As in baseball, sometimes an announcer just needs to shut up and let the on-field play speak for itself.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed "Wipeout."

What made it even more fun was my almost 4-yr-old son was giggling through the entire thing. And therein lies part of the appeal for me - the chance for my son and I to sit and have a good time laughing together at a show that appeals to kids (for the antics) and adults (the commentary). Sorry - but I'm a fan.

I was NOT a fan of the Japanese show, though. VERY disappointed to find out it's a reality show as opposed to a game show. I most likely won't watch that one again.

Anonymous said...

I was a big fan of Most Extreme Elimination Challenge on Spike TV, and thought of it immididiatly after seeing the first ad for Wipeout. It takes all of the falls, which made it funny besides the point, and gets rid of all the parts that make it funny on purpose.

Even for summer fare, this looked pretty lazy.

Anonymous said...

MXC is a much better show than Wipeout -- faster-paced, less repetitive, and funnier, if more obscene.

It would have been a lot better if people were eliminated for falling in -- watching people struggle afterwards gets tedious.

Haven't watched the second show yet.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed John Henson's commentary. His snarky remarks were exactly the sort of thing my wife and I say to each other when watching these kinds of shows.

On the other hand, I thought I Survived... was just awful. It was a lame rehash of The Apprentice, filled with boring annoying people we don't care about. It wasn't even a real Japanese game show! It's just some fake crap they made up for the show. What's the point?

Anonymous said...

I think what makes Tashiki's Castle (which is redubbed in English and shown as MXC on Spike) much more interesting is that normally reserved and non-self-aggrandizing Japanese people are running the course and getting slaughtered. It's a culture that sometimes takes things too seriously and laughing at itself by taking things as un-seriously as possible.

The American version - Wipeout - suffers by comparison because the contestants seem to be all too aware with being on TV and becoming minor stars. They play up there "humiliation" because they are too aware that that is what they are there for, and it doesn't seem as natural. Turning it into a timed competition with a big cash prize feeds into this sense that it's more about American Ego than Humility.

Nevertheless, I will probably watch more of them. Like American Idol, the early parts with random bad participants are more interesting than the 'final 12' stage and beyond, and I agree with the comment that the early obstacle courses are actually more interesting than the more straight-forward Final Course. I like the farcical early wipeouts enough to overlook the increasingly serious (and boring) competition aspect.

ISAJGS started off interesting, but became bogged down by adhering too much to the reality show format - reward for the winners, punishment for the losers, confessionals, inter-character drama, the elimination at the end (sappy 'walk away' music included). None of that is interesting compared to the games the Japanese play and wanting to see more of that alone. The rest is just time-consuming noise.

Nancy said...

I laughed my ass off during Wipeout. There's something funny about watching people bounce off the big balls(!) or get punched in the jaw and fall in the water. I can't help it.
I didn't realize that ISAJGS was a reality show as others mentioned. It's set up as a series record on the DVR though so I'll probably watch it as I get the chance.

Anonymous said...

I've seen a lot of positive comments about Wipeout, so it was nice to read that someone else didn't care for it. I didn't think any of the "commentary" was very funny, and it got old after a while. I'd rather watch MXC or Ninja Warrior any day.

I Survived a Japanese Game Show was better. I was a little annoyed that it had the standard reality show gimmicks, but I thought that the teams competing and the absurdity of the game show was enough to make it entertaining. I don't care who wins or who is eliminated, but I'll at least tune in again to see what they do next.

Joe said...

I fall into the "laughed like crazy with my kids" camp.

I thought there was a (very) little bit of MST3K with Henson and Anderson's commentary. Had the feeling of happening post-edit. Anderson had all the good lines.

Sometimes stupid TV is genius.

Anonymous said...

I thought "Wipeout" was boring and the commentary juvenile (I was disappointed with Henson's jokes, especially as I usually like him). I guess I like these things more when I have a rooting interest in the contestants, which is why I'll probably give "I Survived A Japanese Game Show" a go after all the Carlin specials on HBO :-)

Anonymous said...

Wipeout was repetitive and unfunny. The final course was so badly rigged with water & pyro you could hardly see the action.

And as a MXC fan, Wipeout simply pales in comparison. MXC keeps it short, has better jokes, weirder challeneges and never fails to get me to laugh.

I'm still a sucker for the now-hackneyed reality-show stuff, so I Survived was much more entertaining. I do hope that the squabbling will spill over into the game and vice versa.

I give Survived props for using subtitles -- imagine this 15 years ago, couch potatoes eating subtitles!

And one weird nugget that wasn't on the first show (or I missed it) was that Ben, the older guy, is Punxsutawney Phil's handler. That explains why he showed up at the airport wearing a top hat.