Anyone who owns a television set knows how uninspired and unoriginal network programming executives can be these days. It’s hard to find a new TV show that isn’t directly copied from another, already airing TV show. As a result we’re stuck watching dozens of identical pawn shop reality shows, fishing reality shows and wedding dress-buying reality shows. On Thursday, June 6, the geniuses at Reelz and TNT will offer us the Sophie’s choice of watching dueling action movie stars hosting very similar reality competitions in which ordinary people must recreate movie-style stunts. The winner is the last person standing. The loser is everyone watching.
In Reelz Channel’s “Race to the Scene,” aging B-movie star Dolph Lundgren (Rocky IV, Universal Soldier, The Expendables) puts teams of two through their theatrical paces. The slapstick obstacle course challenges more closely resemble bargain basement episodes of “Wipeout” than the movies they’re supposed to be recreating (Independence Day, Speed, The Terminator, Bridesmaids). Competitions take place in the “actual” places where the original movies were filmed (read: “Los Angeles”). But the fact that “Race to the Scene” employs the same football stadium as that one part of Forrest Gump doesn’t make watching two Persian-American sisters-in-law jog through tires any more fascinating. Even sillier is the sight of the former Ivan Drago doing an embarrassing Forrest Gump imitation (“My momma always said life is like a box of Swedish meatballs”) and running around in a wedding dress. Think “The Amazing Race” with duller scenery and goofier costumes.
“The Hero” takes the high and mighty road, claiming to be a search for a real American hero. Nine contestants are jammed into a penthouse in Panama. (Why Panama? No clue.) There they are tested “physically, mentally and morally.” Mostly that involves competitors repelling down tall buildings, mountains, caves and cliffs. Like “The Real World” and all its progeny, “The Hero” tries to milk all its drama from a bunch of random people stuck in a room and yelling at one another. Host/executive producer Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (G.I. Joe: Retaliation, Fast & Furious 6) shows up every once in a while, dangling a big cash prize in front of contestants if they’ll betray their roommates—which would have been an interesting twist if no one knew they were on a show called “The Hero.” This is Johnson’s least exciting role since The Tooth Fairy. Almost the entire show is taken up with bickering and sub-“Survivor” histrionics. The “voting one another off” stage (which happens in the penthouse’s “War Room”) takes longer than the Board Room meeting on a season finale of “The Apprentice.” Occasionally you do get to see someone hanging off the side of a very high building, but it’s small recompense. Think “Big Brother” but with bigger pecs.