TV Review: ‘Superhuman’

Superhuman Fox series

“Brainy” and “reality TV” don’t often appear together in the same sentence, but Fox has actually provided at least a taste of the former in “Superhuman,” a competition format originated in Germany that’s receiving a tryout as a two-hour special. Kal Penn turns out to be natural as host of this intriguing display of memory, dexterity and other far-beyond-the-norm skills, which is actually done no favors by the expanded format, making some of the stunts begin to feel a tad repetitive. Nevertheless, one can easily see this returning to plug holes on nights where Fox’s ratings are less than super.

In addition to Penn, the producers flesh out the festivities with Mike Tyson and actress-comic Mary Lynn Rajskub, just because, as well as Dr. Rahul Jandial, who might be the world’s most dashing neurosurgeon. The good doctor helps explain how the brain works, while Rajskub and Tyson essentially function as surrogates for the viewers at home by saying “wow” a lot.

Still, at least there’s a good deal to be wowed by, as the various participants, each introduced with a short film clip, exhibit staggering displays of memory, mathematics and physical acrobatics, as well as harder-to-define talents, like a woman who can identify songs just by watching the pianist’s fingers. In a way, it’s as if somebody harnessed David Letterman’s Stupid Human Tricks (which might explain why Paul Shaffer is the aforementioned pianist) — only with the players vying for a $100,000 prize.

Fox actually lopped the very ending off its screener, which is silly, because as they used to say on “Whose Line Is It Anyway?,” who wins doesn’t really matter. It’s more about feeling a sense of awe in watching someone add up numbers that flash by in milliseconds or identify a seemingly imperceptible change made to a mosaic of tiles.

Fox being Fox, the contestants also have seemingly been coached to unattractively boast about their prospects of winning, mixed in with human-interest stories about how much the cash would help them. But those trappings are secondary to the gee-whiz part of the show, whose closest cousin would be something like “Brain Games” on Fox’s corporate sibling National Geographic Channel.

Like a lot of these formats, it’s difficult to tell how well something like “Superhuman” would wear over time, but it certainly has the feel of a concept that could play for six or eight weeks during the spring or summer. And in terms of the likelihood that Fox will find itself needing a utility player in this mold, well, you don’t have to possess inordinate powers of perception — or even be a brain surgeon — to figure that out.


TV Review: 'Superhuman'

(Special; Fox, Mon. Jan. 4, 8 p.m.)


Produced by Endemol Shine North America.


Executive producers, Rob Smith, Georgie Hurford Jones, David Friedman. 120 MIN.


Host: Kal Penn. Guest panel: Mike Tyson, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Dr. Rahul Jandial

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  1. tom ranney says:

    great show remarkable kal penn and tyson are funny and witty

  2. Hi, my name is Michael, I am interested in your competition, pls feel free ti contact me through my website

  3. ToscasKiss says:

    I happened upon this show when it aired and, despite being someone who rarely watches ‘reality’ TV shows (or even much TV at all, for that matter), I really enjoyed this show, and was impressed with the balance they achieved with it, and the atmosphere, generally. Kal Penn did a great job as host, and there was a pleasant, fun, but not cloying spirit of enthusiasm and supportiveness amongst Penn, the 3-person panel, and the audience. Beyond the obvious, I was impressed by the show’s scouts’ having found such a good crop of contestants, with truly impressive abilities together with telegenic looks and personalities. It all brought to mind, in a way, old episodes of WHAT’S MY LINE and other such game shows of the ’50s and ’60s, with its positive atmosphere, though it did not feel old-fashioned. I was looking forward to seeing more episodes, and really hope that will happen.

  4. Brandon Fontenot says:

    As I watched the new show on fox “superhuman” hosted by Kal Penn, it was clear that all these acts of said superhuman ability could of been scripted if they wanted to. I’m not saying that they were. The contestants might actually all have the ability to do these great things but if you look at each act or ability, they can all be fake and with the right acting from the contestants, given a script to remember could be used to fool the audience. There were signs that gave this away from the panelist and audience. If you want the viewers to believe this is real superhuman ability, you need to find a way to make it authentic. Making sure there is no way this could be fake. All in all, fun show. Got some laughs in.

  5. Matthew Reagan says:

    This is f…… Incredible. But I didn’t get the food challenge. Every chef has his/her own recipe for a dish. Same dish is going to have different ingredients by each chef. So how can the man correctly identify what is missing if he doesn’t know how the chef interprets the dish? These people are unbelievable..

    • This is so damn stupid, as well as fake, I’m no longer in awe of a growing naive public that gets “wowed” so easily over staged garbage. My all-time favorite saying applies to the “participants” in these types of shows, but before I give it to you, have you ever wondered; “Why are there so many people with tragic stories, and down-on-their-luck backgrounds, appearing in “reality” shows like these?” “Why are there never any “Average Joe’s” and “Plain Jane’s” that just want to compete?” Everyone has some story of loss, homelessness, or something tragic that’s got to tug on the viewers heartstrings, just to justify ad-space and supposed astronomical cash payouts. The saying goes; “Why are there so many combat gunners and never any cooks, when you meet a member or the armed forces?” No veteran has ever admitted to a lowly, unglamorous position in their time in the service. Fact. If you can’t make that apply to the garbage disposal of reality tv that is slung all over every network, then you’re alway going to be a sheep.

  6. R. Shackleford says:

    Watching it now. Zoe’s memory thing is a joke. Simple math. Break each into a 10 bit binary number and convert to decimal. Do this 4 times(if there was 40 pieces). Remember the 4 “decimal” numbers and reconvert back to base 2 (binary)

  7. kap says:

    Brian Lowry seems to hate Fox. Why?

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