Credit Bravo with recognizing traits in reality contestants that scientists (in an old joke, anyway) prize in lab rats — namely, there’s a near-inexhaustible supply of these critters and virtually nothing they won’t do. The cheese here is a few more minutes of fame, and participants in “Survivor,” “The Amazing Race” and “American Idol” dutifully line up for their crumbs, creating a product almost irresistible in its sheer cheekiness. Richard Hatch jousting and “The Apprentice’s” Heidi Bressler running the obstacle course? Who better to play a made-up game than artificial stars?
The 90-minute kickoff (taped at Pepperdine U. in Malibu) includes clips from the original “Battle,” with glimpses of Robert Conrad chewing up the course and Lynda Carter hopping into (and climbing out of) the pool. Ah, memories.
In a sense, though, this new breed of combatant is more perfectly suited to this concocted competition — a sort of roller derby for our times — which now incorporates the inevitable wrinkle of voting players off the four teams.
Like many popular reality shows, there is endless discussion here of strategy, hurt feelings and emotional bonds, plus the not-as-much-fun-as-it-sounds cheap thrill of a little person, “Amazing Race’s” Charla Faddoul, battling a “Swan” in the joust event. Don’t hit the nose, it’s brand new!
Sportscaster Mike Adamle earnestly presides over the various stages of this tour de farce, while former reality players (including “Apprentice’s” Omarosa Manigault Stallworth) conduct sideline interviews. What’s most amusing, however, is how the contestants seem so familiar with each other — as if they spent all their spare time watching reality shows when they weren’t participating in them.
Inane as it all sounds and pretty much is, there’s a certain kick to seeing these people from different programs thrown together. And if that doesn’t do it, there’s always “The Real World’s” spectacularly endowed Coral Smith repeatedly plummeting into the dunk tank during that event, a TV-MA rating unto itself.
With “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” withering faster than anticipated, Bravo has overdosed on self-referential reality, and there’s a built-in cynicism here that relies on viewers wanting to see these instant celebs suffer, at least a little.
Still, transforming unscripted TV’s castaways into fodder for this frothy competition seems imbued with possibilities, as well as a more logical use of the raw materials than asking them to try their hands at acting, as E!’s “Kill Reality” does. Small wonder Bravo and TWI are already planning a special titled “All-Star Reality Reunion” for the fall.
Think of these programs as a way to recycle reality stars after going to the trouble of creating them — sort of like using every part of the chicken. Whatever the rationale, after a somewhat languorous summer, Bravo might have found a series to help the net get its “Eye” back.