reality tv show reviews

Travis A. Wise > Reality TV Reviews

Currently On: Big Brother III
Past Shows: The Amazing Race, The Amazing Race 2, American Idol, Big Brother, Big Brother II, Big Brother III, Boot Camp, Fear Factor, Making The Band, The Mole, Project Green Light, Survivor: Pulau Tiga, Survivor II: Australia, Survivor III: Africa, Survivor VI: Marquesas, Temptation Island.

The Amazing Race

Run: Fall 2001 on CBS.
Premise: Eleven teams of two race around the world on a treasure hunt.  Last team to arrive at a destination is eliminated.
Review:  Eleven teams are on the move eastward around the globe.  The environment is constantly changing, and the show is fast paced and tightly edited.  The show started with twenty-two people, which is a lot of personalities to get to know, but it was edited such that we did get to know who the contestants are, and could pick favorites.  Some of the teams get along really well (Joe and Bill; Rob & Brennan), others are painful to watch together (Nancy and Emily).  Joe and Bill ("Team Guido") are the most competitive and ruthless of the eleven teams, and that initially makes me dislike them, but as we learned from Survivor I and Big Brother II, those are the skills it takes to win the game.  The lawyers, Rob and Brennan are also my favorites, because they performed exceptionally throughout the race and did so in a very ethical way.  But competitive reality shows aren't all about ethics - it's about knowing how to play the game.  Therefore, Team Guido is my pick to win.  In the end though, arrogance was the deciding factor.  Team Guido spent too much time being arrogant about their language skills and having traveled extensively, and that cost them precious time that cumulatively built up to a 24 hour lag.  At one point, Team Guido compared themselves to the Bill Clinton Presidency.  That was the last straw for me.  The season finale was the most powerful reality TV show finale I have ever seen, and I doubt it could be matched.  Rob and Brennan and Frank and Margarita were neck and neck, racing to the finish line near Shae Stadium in Queens.  At one point, Rob and Brennan pay $300 cash to buy a stranger's cell phone to make plane reservations while they are driving.  Rob and Brennan inch ahead of Frank and Margarita, and catch an earlier train through NYC.  As they come running down the finish line through a park, the remaining eight teams are at the finish line cheering them on.  It is truly a victory lap for them, and they break down in tears.  It is a very emotional moment for everyone.  A few minutes later, Frank and Margarita come running down the road, thinking they have won.  But then they see Rob and Brennan, and realize they have been defeated.  But as Margarita says, they have won something much more important than the $1M prize - their relationship has improved, and they have reconciled.  Meanwhile, Team Guido is still somewhere lost in the Artic Tundra, and the producers tell them that the game is over.  Grade: A+.
My pick to win:  Joe and Bill ("Team Guido)".
Who won: Rob and Brennan.
Prize: $1 million.

The Amazing Race 2

Run: Spring 2002 on CBS.
Premise: Eleven teams of two race around the world on a treasure hunt.  Last team to arrive at a destination is eliminated, until only one team remains.
Review:  Each team has a very distinct personality - some get along well and work well together to achieve their goal, others bicker and that slows them down.  Shola and Doyin are my picks to win because they work amazingly well together (they are twins, and both psychologists), and they are physically and mentally very strong.  All of the other teams have a weakness that Shola and Doyin don't have - either they don't work well together, or they are a weak team.  As the game progressed into the final four, team Cha-Cha (Oswald and Danny) clearly had the best attitude of any reality TV show team.  But they weren't quite competitive enough.  In the final three, I didn't really care who won, as long as it wasn't Tara and Wil.  They were just abusive to each other.  I was a tad disappointed that Chris and Alex won, because they are essentially the clones of Rob and Brennan.  But they were a good team.  Grade:  B+.
My pick to win:  Shola and Doyin.
Who won: Chris and Alex
Prize: $1 million.

American Idol

Run: Summer 2002 on Fox.
Premise: Thousands of early-20's superstar-wannabe's try out before a panel of caustic judges.  The shortlist of finalists performed on-air, and the home audience votes for the best.  The season finale will feature the two finalists, vying for the title of American Idol.
Review: Wasn't Making The Band wasn't bad enough?  American Idol is not that much different.  Lots of wanna-be singers, with very little talent, trying to make it big on TV.  The real entertainment from this show is not in the competition, but in the judges, who are at times so caustic to the contestants that the hopefuls run off the stage in tears.
My pick to win:  The judges.
Who won: (game in progress).
Prize: Recording and management contract.

Big Brother

Run: Summer 2000 on CBS.
Premise: Ten diverse individuals live in a house under the watchful eye of television and internet cameras.
Review: Terribly boring at times, this show was broadcast six days a week, but hardly anyone watched.  The excitement included watching the houseguests eat dinner, make crafts, and compete in "challenges."  Houseguests nominated each other for eviction, and the public choose which of the nominated houseguests to evict by calling a 900 number.  Usually the public evicted the most interesting houseguests, and the show progressively got more boring.  After they eliminated the first few houseguests, the remaining ones were all relatively likable, if not plain and unremarkable.  Watching Julie Chen try to host the show was almost more entertaining than the show itself.  Grade: C.
My pick to win:  Curtis, George, Cassandra.
Who won: Eddie, Josh, Curtis.
Prize: $500,000 / $100,000 / $50,000.

Big Brother II

Run: Summer 2001 on CBS.
Premise: Same as Big Brother I.
Review: Better than the first season, but still quite boring.  Producers limited the broadcast to three times a week.  Instead of the public voting out the most interesting people first, the houseguests competed for Head of Household, who then nominated two people for eviction.  The remaining houseguests then voted to determine which of the nominated individuals would be evicted.  The ten houseguests were more interesting than in the first season, but none of them were particularly appealing. As with Survivor I, the winner was the one who played the game best, even though he was completely unlikable.  Grade: C+.
My pick to win: Bunky & Krista.
Who won: Will & Nicole.
Prize: $500,000 / $50,000.

Big Brother III

Run: Summer 2002 on CBS.
Premise: Same as Big Brother I & II.
Review:  Somehow Julie Chen has managed to get hired for a third time to host Big Brother III.  The house is the same, with some different decorations.  The people are also the same... the gay man, the fatherly figure, the slutty tramp, the bible thumper, the two minorities, the sassy beauty queen, etc.  The rules have changed a bit (i.e. the nomination veto), but other than that, the show is pretty much the same as I and II.
My pick to win:  Marcellas.
Who won: (game in progress)
Prize: $500,000 / $50,000.

Boot Camp

Run: Spring 2001 on FOX.
Premise: Sixteen contestants try to survive eight weeks in military-style boot camp.
Review:  I have no idea why I watched this show.  Grade: D.
My pick to win: Park, Yaney.
Who won: Whitlow, Wolf.
Prize: $500,000.

Fear Factor

Run: Ongoing on NBC.
Premise: Small groups of people undertake physical and psychological challenges (i.e. bungee jumping, eating mealworms, sitting in a vat of rats), and the last one standing at the end wins the prize.
Review: I've only seen this show when I am flipping through channels, and the challenges are usually too gross for me to watch for very long.  The prize ($50,000) isn't large enough to make me do any of the challenges.  The host, Joe Rogan, is very annoying.  Grade: C-.
My pick to win: N/A.
Who won: N/A.
Prize: $50,000.

Making The Band

Run: Summer 2000 and 2001 on ABC.
Premise: Hundreds of contestants try out to become the next "big" boy-band, O-Town.  The band then records their album and performs.
Review:  Everyone knew this band had no chance of making it big, and listening to them sing confirmed it.  Lou Pearlman is the producer who engineered the band, and apparently also the show, and has given himself a starring role in the show.  The first season was the elimination and selection process, and the second season was the recording process and various performances, all of which were mediocre at best, and most were staged at middle schools.  After two seasons, ABC decided not to renew the show, due to low ratings.  MTV has bought the third season.  Grade: B-.
My pick to win: N/A
Who won: N/A
Prize: Fame (arguably).

The Mole

Run: Spring 2001 on ABC.
Premise: Ten contestants try to figure out who the one mole is amongst their group.  One contestant is eliminated each week, by scoring the worst on a weekly test of who the mole is.  The last non-mole contestant standing wins the game.  The prize fluctuates depending on how much money the contestants win during the game by completing challenges.
Review:  Anderson Cooper is a strong host.  The challenges are exciting and sometimes downright dangerous.  The mole is not an actor or actress, which makes the game even more challenging.  Few people were able to genuinely guess who the mole was, although in hindsight it was interesting to see the mole-ish things that person did to throw the rest of the contestants off.  This is one of the better reality TV shows out there. Grade: A.
My pick to win: Jim.
Who won: Steven (Kathryn was the Mole).
Prize: Up to $1,000,000 (Steven won $510,000).

The Mole II

Run: Fall 2001 on ABC, continued to Summery 2002 on ABC.
Premise: Fourteen contestants try to figure out who the one mole is amongst their group.  One contestant is eliminated each week, by scoring the worst on a weekly test of who the mole is.  The last non-mole contestant standing wins the game.  The prize fluctuates depending on how much money the contestants win during the game by completing challenges.
Review: Stronger contestants make this season more interesting than the original show.  One of the changes for this season was more clues in each episode as to who the mole is.  So far I have yet to see a clue I can point to and say "ok, that person is the mole."  There are many more exemptions this season than last season, which makes the game more competitive, but really less interesting because fewer people have their head on the chopping block at each execution.  After only three episodes, ABC put the show on hiatus until Summer 2002.  The reason given for the hiatus was poor ratings.  When the show returned, it turned out to be a very strong reality show.  The characters were by and large good people, with interesting personalities that made the show interesting to watch.  There wasn't the petty squabbling that we so often see on reality shows.  Although I didn't catch any of the hidden clues pointing towards Bill as the Mole (freeze frames in the opening credits; imagery of ships), towards the end the fingers started pointing towards him.  The real mystery was who would win.  Dorothy made a very worthy winner.  Grade:  B+.
My pick to win: Rob, with Dorothy as the Mole.
Who won: Dorothy (Bill was the Mole).
Prize: Up to $1,000,000 (Dorothy won $636,000).

Project Green Light

Run:  Winter 2002
Premise:  Project Greenlight holds a contest where one person or team gets to make their original film. Miramax Films finances production of the film with a minimum $1 million production budget, and releases it in theaters. An HBO documentary series shows the entire filmmaking process, from the selection of the script, through production and editing, to the film's theatrical run.  This season the winning movie is "Stolen Summer."  It is being produced by Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, and Chris Moore.  The movie was shown at Sundance.
Review:  I started watching this show half-way into the season, and stopped watching it just a few weeks later because we cancelled HBO.  But I was captivated by the episodes I did see.  The various head honchos on the movie (director, producer, lighting guy, etc.) all had big egos, and it was humorous to watch them try to work together to get a movie made.  One of the main actresses is an accomplished actress, and one of the main actors is a little kid with very little acting experience.  They are on opposite ends of the acting spectrum, and the crew has a hard time working with them.
My pick to win:  N/A.
Who won:  N/A.
Prize:  Their own movie.

Survivor: Pulau Tiga

Run: Summer 2000 on CBS.
Premise: Sixteen contestants stranded on Palau Tiga island have to survive.  Each week they boot off one of their own by majority vote.
Review:  Survivor I is the gold standard against which all reality TV shows will forever be held.  Richard Hatch invented the Alliance.  Sue Hatch showed us how to play nasty.  These people got down and dirty, and America loved it.  Richard was the underdog, but he played the game hard, and walked away the winner.  Grade: A+.
My pick to win: Gervase.
Who won: Richard.
Prize: $1 million.

Survivor II: Australia

Run: Summer, 2001 on CBS.
Premise: Sixteen contestants stranded in rural Australia have to survive.  Each week they boot off one of their own by majority vote.
Review: The goal for this season was to maintain the ratings and enthusiasm of Survivor I.  I was skeptical that this season could live up to the first run, but it did.  Alliances shifted frequently, and the backstabbing started almost immediately when Kel was targeted to be booted.  The final two, Colby and Tina, were both outstanding people, and I was very happy that Tina won.  Survivor maintains the gold standard for reality TV. Grade: A.
My pick to win: Kel, then Nick, then Roger, then Tina.
Who won: Tina.
Prize: $1 million.

Survivor III: Africa

Run: Fall, 2001 on CBS.
Premise: Sixteen contestants stranded in the African desert have to survive.  Each week they boot off one of their own by majority vote.
Review:  The casting department has apparently decided that physical looks is not a criteria for selection.  These contestants definitely aren't lookers, like the Survivor II cast.  Nor do they seem exceptionally bright.  The challenges aren't nearly as exciting the third time around.  All three of the Surivivor series have featured good editing, and in my mind that really helps improve the show, even if the content is on the boring side.  I finally lost interest in this show after about 5 weeks.  The people ceased being interesting, and there was very little new about the show that we haven't seen in the prior to seasons.  In the final two weeks, I regained an interest in the show, as the battle came down to the final five.  Lex was the clear leader, and I began rooting for him to win. Tom provided comic relief with his incompetence and hillbilly mannerisms.  If the season finale for The Amazing Race was awesome, the season finale for Survivor III was boring.  The final challenge was a rerun of the post-standing challenges we saw in I and II.  The writers must be out of ideas.  The one exciting point was when Kim had the final vote narrowing the selection from three to two.  She was in the hot seat, and handled it well.  Hopefully they will come up with some new excitement for Survivor VI.  Grade:  C.
My pick to win: I don't really care, but if you make me pick, I'll say Lex.
Who won: Ethan.
Prize: $1 million.

Survivor VI: Marquesas

Run: Spring 2002 on CBS.
Premise: Sixteen contestants stranded on the island of Marquesas have to survive.  Each week they boot off one of their own by majority vote.
Review:  Survivor VI brings the show back to its roots - the beach.  The cast definitely has the physical attributes to keep an audience watching, and a good mix of characters from an older female Sue-type truck mechanic to the woman with the breast implants to the studly guys with tight bodies.  The gimmick for this season is that the contestants are not provided with food, water, or fire.  But they are on an island with no shortage of natural vegetation and free-range animals, easy access to water, and magnifying glasses to start fires quickly.  Maraamu spent the first few episodes self-imploding faster than Enron, while Rotu was strong, cohesive, and kicking butt.  The difference between the teams was just a happenstance of personalities, but it was enough to make a tremendous difference.  Later on the teams merged, and Kathy and Paschal were strong favorites.  Neleh and Vecepia made me want to puke with their holier-than-thou (now let me stab you in the back) game.  I wasn't happy with the final three, but if I had to pick between them, I guess Vecepia was a good choice.  Review:  B+.
My pick to win: Gabriel.
Who won: Vecepia.
Prize: $1 million.

Temptation Island

Run: Winter 2001 on FOX.
Premise: Four couples are marooned on a tropical island.  The men are separated from the women, and each are tempted by temptors of the opposite sex.  There is no monetary prize; it is a test of devotion.
Review:  The taping lasted only two weeks, and it was shocking how quickly the contestants gave in to the temptors in that brief period of time.  This was clearly an indication of the weakness of these couples' relationships.  None of the contestants were remotely appealing.  I compare watching this show to watching a bad accident - something horrible is happening, but you can't help watch.  Grade: C-.
My pick to win:  N/A.
Who won: N/A.
Prize: None.

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