Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Reality TV, new and revisited

THE AMAZING RACE is one of my favorite TV shows, but I came to it a little late, missing the first three seasons. Luckily Game Show Network has started rerunning the seven previous races. Considering that the series ran only in the summer until the 2004-05 season and doesn't return until this fall, the reruns are a welcome substitute.

The first thing that struck me about the first season of THE AMAZING RACE was the leisurely pace, not only in the editing but also in the participants' behavior. The show editors have definitely refined the structure (and improved it), and the contestants have become more intense about every little move. Seeing the first episode demonstrates that the director and editors were still finding their way in how to convey the order and closeness of the teams while the race is in progress. There's too much emphasis on travel details and not enough on the racers, but I expect that the first season will get better. After all, later seasons are edited about as well as anything on television.

The new show from SURVIVOR producer Mark Burnett made its debut tonight. ROCK STAR: INXS is sort of a rock and roll version of AMERICAN IDOL, except the prize isn't an individual recording contract but the chance to front the once-popular Australian band. INXS hasn't been on the scene for some time--rightly so, since lead singer Michael Hutchence was found dead of an apparent suicide in late 1997--but as a brand name and huge 80s act, the time may be right for them to cash in their chips for nostalgia all things 80s. (They certainly have a better chance of selling albums with the INXS name than something else.)

To the show's credit, they don't hide the issue of Hutchence's death, although I certainly don't expect it to be mentioned beyond this first episode. My bet to win is Jessica. Not only is she the hot young thing with the pipes who can add some sex appeal to a band of middle-aged guys, but also, in picking a woman, INXS would gain someone who would face less scrutiny and comparisons as a replacement for Hutchence. (To be honest, though, I don't see any of the other women winning, so this theory's shot if she's packing her bags soon.) If a guy will win, the smart money should be on Brandon, who seems like he's out of the Hutchence mold.

Based on one episode, ROCK STAR: INXS looks to be a fun, zippy show that will give us enough rockin' with the ace house band while still finding time to tell the competitors' stories. If the first show is any indication, it doesn't look like we'll be seeing complete performances by each singer, and I don't think that it's necessary. It was easy to see from a little bit that Dana's style, at least on this song, didn't match the band and that Suzie's botched lyrics were going to put her in the hot seat. The dismissal was surprisingly low-key and about as polite as it gets for this sort of program. The early verdict is that ROCK STAR: INXS will be worthwhile summer viewing, but we'll see how it progresses.

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