July 28, 2006

Who doesn't, is the better question


It's obviously harder than it looks to create a good reality show. I would have thought that taking the Amazing Race formula and adding genuinely difficult puzzles would be brilliant. Instead it's Treasure Hunters. On the other hand, Who Wants to Be a Superhero could have been a disaster. How do you make a show out of ordinary people putting on costumes and pretending to have superpowers they obviously don't have? But holy Speedos, Batman! I'll be damned if the Sci-Fi Channel hasn't pulled it off.

If you missed the first episode last night, catch it in reruns. It takes a certain kind of guts these days to do high camp with a straight face, but Sci Fi, host Stan Lee and most of the contestants hit their notes perfectly. Good casting is obviously the first key. From Monkey Woman, who tried out for the opportunity to use her "many talents: climbing trees, making monkey noises," to Iron Enforcer, a lunkhead with a ridiculous supergun attacked to his arm ("Can you caulk a bathroom with it?" asks Major Victory). Everyone is superfriends so far, but you know there's going to be tension when raw foodist Creature finally confronts Fat Mama about getting her powers from doughnuts and Twinkies.

The first competition shows how the program will find clever ways to test for superhero qualities in people who can't actually leap tall buildings in a single bound (so far there has been no discussion of powers, though I gather from the Web site that will come out at some point; One of Cell Phone Girl's powers is listed as "download any information available on a computer," which seems less like a superpower than, you know, an Internet connection). The heroes are told that they'll have to compete to be the fastest to covertly change into their costumes (with no phone booths available, Creature jumps into a garbage can) and run to a location. But before the finish line, Stan the Man has planted a little girl crying for someone to help her find her mommy. The footage of several costumed would-be heroes running right past her without a second glance is priceless.

Despite the plethora of hot superchicks, my early favorite is Major Victory, a square-jawed all-American repentant stripper trying to redeem himself in the eyes of his daughter. Victory has internalized the old school angst-free blue Boy Scout ethos of the classic Superman comics and dressed it up with some flashy dance moves. Brandon Routh, watch your back. When Victory literally scoops the little girl into his arms or cocks an eye at the camera and says, "be a winner, not a wiener," this is what geek TV is all about.

Posted by Daniel Radosh


oh man, you're making me wish I had TV!

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