Team size. It is hard enough to get to know 20 Survivors in an early episode, or 22-24 Racers as an Amazing Race opens up. If you recall the Season With Families Which Must Not Be Named, there were 40 Amazing Racers starting that Race. How many of them can you name? Can you name the dad from the Black Family? The mom from the Rogers Family? Any of the son-in-laws from the Aiello Family? Nope.
We started EI with 39 contestants. With three teams now eliminated, we STILL have 30 people on this show. That’s too many. Only a handful has stood out – Blind Erik, Akbar, CB Chad, AJ, maybe Mackenzie, Fathead, Grandpa. Some of them haven’t said two words – I STILL have no idea what the female cop’s name is, and I refuse to look it up. After three episodes, I should at least know that based solely on watching three hours of programming.
Based on Wikipedia – and who knew there was a Belgian band called Hooverphonic with a song of the same name – there are 10 episodes of the show, and we have three in the books. That means barring a double elimination, we will have four teams, 12 people in the finals. I wonder if by them we will ever hear from Female Cop, be able to tell the Gypsies apart, figure out the Fisherman’s names outside of Nino, etc, etc.
Part of the mystique and aura of the big reality shows is that the characters can become larger than life. We remember Flo breaking down in AR3 to this day – without her appearing on any All-Star season. Why? Because we got to know her. We remember the chef who couldn’t cook rice all the way back to the second Survivor season (Keith). We got to know him. I am skeptical that if the Country Boys make the finals that we will really get to know anyone other than Chad.
So those are my complaints so far, and now for the good news. If I didn’t think this show had potential, I wouldn’t be bitching so much. It was why I complained about Top Chef: Masters for the first two seasons, and why I was thrilled it corrected its flaws and became a much better show for Season 3. EI has a chance to move past it’s derivative origin and craft its own niche. I understand I have compared it often to its model shows, but that’s only because the changes they have made to stand out have not worked.
I think that if EI gets a Season 2 – and the ratings have been good enough to think it will – it needs a big tweak. Less teams, more excitement, more consequences for losing, and lastly, either light a fire under The Host, or get a new one. Maybe that’s the jolt it needs, someone with a personality as strong as Probst, Phil, etc. Top Chef and American Idol sure did it well – Padma came on for Season 2, and Stone in Masters for Season 3, and Seacrest was a co-host for Season 1. They learned. Maybe The Host can figure it out and has it in him, but not so far.
As for what I liked? Well, I really like how hard the show really is, and only wish it would translate on screen better. That rafting portion looked really hard to do. And it was badass of the show to get them to the checkpoint only to tell them to paddle even more. Some of the contestants were almost or literally in tears.
I liked the choice given to the teams to take the longer, less intense (although that wind makes me wonder if the river path was really easier), or the shorter, more intense mountain path. Yes, I understand this is a Detour without the title, but, well, that works. The river path seemed easier, and yet it was Grandpa’s Warriors’ downfall. Granddaughter just couldn’t handle the cold – which based on next week’s clips, it is a good thing they got eliminated – and led to the team’s demise.