'Ryan Lochte' Review: E!'s Skirt-Chasing Airhead

First, let’s consider the title: “What Would Ryan Lochte Do?” – an E! tag-along reality/sitcom hybrid about the Olympic swimmer – appears to derive its name from a “South Park” song about skater Brian Boitano, itself a spoof on an old saying about Jesus. As for the show, Lochte is inordinately eager to please, even endeavoring to create his own meaningless catchphrase (“Jeah!”). The producers don’t mind portraying him as a skirt-chasing airhead, albeit one who loves his mom. Still, to answer the titular question, here’s one guess: “Not be caught dead watching this kind of TV show.”

Although overshadowed by fellow Olympian Michael Phelps in the pool, Lochte has enough gold-medal accomplishments and the requisite good looks to happily survive via endorsements. His Hollywood cred, by contrast, seem largely tethered to his rep as a ladies man, and a “Saturday Night Live” spoof in which Seth MacFarlane played him as a kind of surfer dunce.

Lochte and the producers (whose credits include Bravo’s “Millionaire Matchmaker”) seemingly embrace these attributes, even presenting flubs and vacant stares during his direct-to-camera interviews to accentuate the point. Meanwhile, Lochte keeps repeating short sayings (“Go big or go home,” “Turn it up”) designed more for T-shirts than coherent dialogue.

As with many of these programs, the main problem is that once you get past admiring the washboard abs and Lochte’s training regimen, there’s not enough action to sustain a TV show, even in a half-hour package (leading, incidentally, into “Married to Jonas”). So the producers have to concoct or enhance situations, trying to build suspense as to whether Lochte can deliver a speech at a Muscular Dystrophy event in D.C. without messing up, or can find something more meaningful relationship-wise than casual hookups.

Lochte looks fine on a magazine cover or print ad, and as he happily acknowledges, he doesn’t have to put much effort into meeting women. Yet there’s scant evidence the swimming star can keep this sort of vehicle afloat on his personality, and the show’s a little too G-rated in the early going (unless one counts tight Speedos) to qualify as a guilty pleasure.

In short, “What Would Ryan Lochte Do?” hasn’t exactly gone big or turned it up, which by its star’s own reckoning leaves him (and E!) with these alternatives: Go home, or turn it off.

What Would Ryan Lochte Do?

(Series; E!, Sun. April 21, 10 p.m.)

Produced by Intuitive Entertainment. Executive producers, Mechelle Collins, Kevin Dill, Erika Wright. 30 MIN.

With: Ryan Lochte.

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