Turns out there is a cure for the summertime blues. It’s the “Sunny Garcia Show,” er, make that “Boarding House: North Shore,” a new WB reality series from “Survivor” guru Mark Burnett. Burnett takes the most watchable elements of that CBS staple — a tropical beach setting and over-the-top personalities — to create an engaging hour that’s part ESPN, part “Baywatch.”
For two months of the year, the North Shore of Oahu becomes a mecca to world-class surfers who converge to compete in the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing. “Boarding House” brings together seven top men and women surfers to share the same crib, and follows them in and out of the water.
Instead of watching supposed average Joes trying to survive in the wild, “Boarding House” features people who are actually skilled at something. There’s competition, but no lame, made-up games — these folks are in their natural environment. Most viewers probably can’t relate to these waveriders’ reality, but it sure is amusing to watch.
So far, the show belongs to Sunny Garcia, a 32-year-old five-time Triple Crown winner and surfing legend. Aside from Mark Jungjohann’s spectacular camera coverage of the surfing competition, the best thing going for the show is the volatile Garcia.
The six other competitors/housemates are defending champ Myles Padaca; party boy Danny Fuller; Damien Hobgood; serious surfer Holly Beck; and party girls/surfer-models Veronica Kay and Chelsea Georgeson. All of them spend a good amount of screen time watching Garcia in awe — and fear.
Maturity is not a strong suit here, especially for (relative) old-timer Garcia, who swats at people like flies in just about every episode. He claims to be defending the honor of his wife, who seems to draw a disproportionate amount of attention, real and imagined. Garcia says where he comes from, you just don’t let other guys ogle your girl. But given the frequency of flying fists, one gets the feeling that Garcia just likes to hit people.
Of course with the influx of surfers comes the proliferation of parties and with those, the clothes, the music and the surf lingo. Music supervisor Jason Bentley culls together a mood-setting selection of tunes from the likes of Machine Head, Slightly Stoopid and Social Burn, while viewers get a crash course in surf lifestyle, complete with language instruction. At the North Shore, the waves are sick and unless you’re a Barney, you are going to be stoked at the action. Translation: Surfing is a world unto itself, and even the biggest couch potato is part of the in crowd, at least one night of the week.
Like other Burnett projects, however, the show can get buried in minutiae. Ten minutes devoted to lost car keys and misfiring car alarms just isn’t that interesting. The real appeal is the fierce competition and the way that these unique folks handle pressure. Given the amount of partying, at times it’s hard to remember that these are real athletes — until you seem them surf.