The traditional Japanese brew of zany stunts, frenetic settings and mild humiliation has already scored a modest success this summer with ABC’s “Wipeout,” and Fox’s “Hole in the Wall” draws from precisely the same well. Still, if ABC’s obstacle-course show offers a variety of methods to dunk people in putrid-looking water, this international hit seemingly exhausted its shallow store of ingenuity during the half-hour premiere. Everyone involved, in fact, seems to be trying just a little too hard, in what might be the first series to jump the shark before its final act break.
Los Angeles weatherman Mark Thompson and actress/model Brooke Burns try to emulate the Japanese hosts by shouting at the top of their lungs for the entire show — a feat of sheer energy that merits some sort of consideration for the inevitable Loudest and Most Obnoxious Reality Host Emmy category.
The actual program, meanwhile, is blissfully simple but hard to describe. Basically, two teams of three contestants in skin-tight crash-dummy outfits try to squeeze through awkwardly shaped geometric holes in moving walls. Success means points. Failure means getting swept into a tiny pool of water and additional screaming.
The contortions are moderately amusing for a round or two; the banter and trash-talking among the highly coached participants proves considerably less entertaining. The catchiest element, in fact, is dramatic synthesized beeping resembling the start of the “Ironside” theme that plays as Thompson counts down to each new challenge.
Winning teams earn $25,000, culminating in a ridiculously slim chance to earn another $100K if one of them can make it through a hole while blindfolded. Based on a cursory glance, having the poor bastards try to catch bullets with their teeth would probably be easier than that, albeit harder to insure.
Sunday’s preview coming out of Fox’s NFL coverage delivered respectable ratings, based on preliminary results, which only proves the long-held notion that men — after a day of heavy drinking and watching football — will try watching just about anything if it’s goofy enough. The series airs twice more this week, with another preview after “Fringe” before settling in on Thursdays.
Despite being harmless nonsense, though, it’s another me-too effort from Fox, whose recent reality formula has mostly consisted of overproducing underwhelming concepts that ape an existing show. (There were no onscreen credits, by the way, for Sunday’s episode.)
Of course, that approach has yielded periodic dividends in the past, but as the players here could testify, it’s an awfully narrow aperture to squeeze through.