“Contestants are experienced marksmen operating on a closed course. Do not attempt this at home.”
So just in case you have access to all kinds of firearms and a few spare acres to set up a range, you might want to think twice before trying to reproduce the challenges you’ll find in History’s latest reality show Top Shot. It’s part Survivor and part Big Brother with the added dimension of marksmanship. And, honestly, it’s quite a bit more compelling than either of those shows.
Sixteen contestants were chosen for their marksmanship skills. Most of them have some claim to fame in the world of competitive shooting. They are split into two groups: the red team and the blue team. This time the teams are separated through the first competition. The losers become the red team, while the winners become the blue team. Like Big Brother, they all will share a single house where cameras will follow their everyday activities. That includes such droll behavior as brushing their teeth and sleeping in their dormitory-style beds. Each morning they are introduced to the weapon or weapons that will be a part of their next competition. The weapons range from historic firearms to slingshots and knives. They are placed with an expert in that weapon and given time to learn and drill the skill sets that will be instrumental in the upcoming challenge. Finally they compete in some combination shooting and obstacle course event. The winning team is safe from elimination. The losing team heads to something called the Nomination Range, where they vote for the person they wish to see gone by firing a handgun at their target. The two contestants receiving the most votes then compete in a head-to-head match, with the loser going home. There is no secret ballot here. Everyone can see who each person votes for. Eventually the two teams merge into a green team and individual competition begins.
Obviously, there are the typical reality-show elements here. There’s going to be maneuvering for votes and alliances. A few of the contestants will get on each other’s nerves to such an extent that it’s a good thing they don’t let them take the guns into the house. This time we have William who has an ego the size of the universe. His “Hey diddle diddle right down the middle” brag gets on the other marksmen’s nerves. You can expect the traditional betrayals and extremely annoying personalities. The only real edge that this show has over all of the others is the competitions themselves. There’s plenty of shooting here, and what a difference that makes.
The host of the series is a Survivor contestant himself. Colby Donaldson was on one of Survivor’s early seasons. He had since turned those 15 minutes of fame into guest spots on such televisions shows as Just Shoot Me, Reba, JAG, Las Vegas and Bones. I guess it makes him somewhat of a logical choice to host this reality show. It really doesn’t matter so much here. Colby doesn’t get near the face time that Jeff Probst gets on Survivor. He merely sets up the situations. Experts take over from there, and since more time is spent on actual competition here, he is pretty much the play-by-play man. He appears a bit stiff at times. I’m not sure if he’s not sure how much to interfere or if he’s uncomfortable around the guns. He never picks up a weapon to fire a single shot. He’s not as much into stirring the pot at the elimination votes either. I guess it makes a difference when you’ve been on the other side of those gatherings.
Perhaps the real star of this show is the high-speed photography. You really get to see the bullets as the impact on everything from exploding targets to glass jars filled with gumballs. This is the real reason why you might want to give this one a chance even if you generally dislike reality shows. Hey, I’m with you. I think reality shows are the last gasp of civilization. Unfortunately, my wife is a huge fan of Survivor. It’s her one and only “can’t miss” television series, so I’ve suffered through plenty of the episodes. I guess being a high school teacher for seven years I’d had my fill of all of the melodramatics and the he said/she said nonsense. So you can imagine I was more than a little bit worried that I would suffer here as well. It wasn’t the case. And it’s this wonderful shooting photography and shooting action that made all of the difference. The game dominates the series, not the schoolyard fighting. It’s there, to be sure. But with Top Shot you’re never very far away from breaking stuff up with some rounds of ammunition. If ever there was a guy’s reality show, this is it.
There are some notable changes this season. It starts off right away when not 16 but 18 contestants take the field for the first competition. Turns out that two of them will be eliminated right away and never even get to go through the house doors. There aren’t near as many of the primitive weapons used this season. Some of the highlights include a canon, a grenade launcher, and a type of sling arrow. Without giving the end away, I think you’ll find this was about as close a finale as the show has had or is likely to have.
You’ll find some bonus footage of the contestants and the weapons included on the fourth disc.
No question that the show will continue. With a sponsor like Bass Pro Shops, the show likely costs the network nothing. This season the winner even gets a professional marksman contract with the company in addition to the hundred grand. There’s talk of there being an all-stars show coming soon. I’m not sure I’m up for that idea, however. This is not the kind of show where the personalities take center stage. It’s watching things get shot or “blowed” up. “Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about.”