Monday, June 27, 2011
Thoughts on Expedition Impossible
I didn't really have the opportunity to share my thoughts following last weeks premiere of the new ABC reality television show Expedition Impossible. Prior to its debut, I had been writing about the program with some regularity, and even posted videos from the start. Before seeing the show, I noted that it appeared to be a mix of adventure racing and the show The Amazing Race. That description holds up to a certain extent, although Expedition Impossible charts its own course as well, sometimes for the better and sometimes not.
First, I'll say that as far as first episodes go, this wasn't a bad one. I found myself enjoying the show overall, in no small part because the Moroccan landscapes look absolutely spectacular in HD. The setting was fantastic and offered some great challenges for the three-person teams who were setting off on the race, many of which seemed completely unprepared for the environments that they would be racing through. (I'm looking at you "Country Boys"!)
Much like Amazing Race however, Expedition Impossible suffers from having too many teams in the first few episodes. It becomes a bit overwhelming for the camera crews and editors to keep up with, and as a result, the audience doesn't get to see too much of the teams in the early going. This was evident when the "Gypsies" won the first leg, although we hardly saw them at all throughout the episode. This will become less of an issue in a few episodes however, as teams are eliminated, giving the remaining teams more screen time. It will also make it easier for us to get to know the racers and start cheering for the ones that we like best.
Unlike in adventure racing, it didn't appear that the contestants in Expedition Impossible were actually having to navigate anywhere. Sure, we saw them carrying compasses at some points, but I believe those are more for show than anything else. It appeared that the trails were marked to some degree, making it easier for the racers to find their way. This made for more of a canned feel to the "expedition," something that doesn't happen AR or The Amazing Race. On the other hand, I'm not surprised by this, as even expert navigators can get lost in the desert, and I'm sure ABC didn't want anyone wandering off to die in the Sahara, despite the fact that it would probably be a rating bonanza.
The challenges that we've seen so far haven't been all that impressive either. In the first one, the teams were told to find water "the local way," which meant digging under the sand for buried water. This made perfect sense to me watching at home, but it seemed to stump all but one of the teams on the show. But once one of them figured it out, they all got it, making it an irrelevant challenge to those that followed. Once the original team had dug their well, everyone else was able to use it afterwards, making it little more of a speed bump. Hopefully future challenges are designed to challenge every team.
The five minute commercial for the Ford Explorer was also a bit much. Sure, Ford is one of the sponsors of the show, and it was disguised as a behind the scenes look at show creator Mark Burnett scouting Morocco for the race, but it seemed to go on forever, and wasn't all that interesting in the greater scheme of things. Hopefully we won't have something similar each week.
Now, all of that said, you would probably think that I hated Expedition Impossible, but on the contrary I still found it enjoyable. I think it'll be better in the episodes to come, and I think it showed a lot of promise. I loved seeing the Moroccan countryside and it was fun to see a pseudo-adventure race on television. The teams are a bit archetypal for me, but hopefully as we get to know them, that will resolve itself as well. As it stands, some of them are quite impressive so far.
Speaking of the teams, one of them, Team No Limits, is probably destined to become known as "the team with the blind guy." While they didn't play it up a ton, it should be mentioned that the "blind guy" is mountaineer Eric Weihenmayer, who became the first blind person to summit Everest a few years back. Eric has notched many adventures in his climbing career and is more than capable of winning this race, which is why I get a chuckle when ever someone says something about not wanting to lose to a bling guy or that he would be out of the race in no time. I have no idea how No Limits does in the race, but I know I'll be cheering for them as long as their still competing.
So? Did you tune in and watch? What are your thoughts on Expedition Impossible so far? Will you give it another go this week? Without a doubt, it is a canned adventure, but hopefully it'll be a fun one to watch during the long summer months. Post your thoughts in the comments!