Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Now that's mildly entertaining!

Listen, I don’t like reality TV and it doesn’t like me. It’s here to stay though, so my strategy is to just find a series or two that doesn’t make me want to claw my eyes out.

I’ve found a few (Red’s burning, creepy passion for Anthony Bourdain is actually kind of justified; I find myself getting sucked into a lot of “Deadliest Catch” marathons; “The Mole” was great for personal reasons). But I realized last night that someone has found – in my opinion - the ideal format for a reality TV show. Bizarrely enough, that someone is Shaquille O’Neal.

The gargantuan baller starred on a show called “Shaq Vs.” this summer, about which I am alerting you a little late, since it had its finale last night. You can probably catch it online though. The show involves Shaq learning different sports, and then playing them, in minorly rigged fashion, against some of the best athletes in the games. It’s pretty simple and straightforward, and therein lays the genius: it’s like settling the never-ending bear vs. shark debate, in tidy little half-hour packages.

I never thought much of Shaq as a performer to be honest. My boyfriend has a huge man-crush on him and thinks he’s hilarious, but I never really got it. To me, Shaq’s husky monotone voice makes him sound about as smart as a bag of hammers, and I had a sneaking suspicion that if he wasn’t 7’1’’, he wouldn’t be much of an athlete.

As happens once in a blue moon, I was wrong. Shaq is actually an oddly entertaining host, and though he never beat any of the pro-athletes he faced, he never really embarrassed himself either. After only a few weeks of training, he held up surprisingly well against the likes of Oscar de la Hoya and Michael Phelps.

The two things about “Shaq Vs.” that - to me - made it better than your average “Bachelorette” were: (1) It had big name stars, and (2) every episode is short and sweet.

This wasn’t a show full of d-list celebrities and wanna-be d-list celebrities. Shaq squared off against reigning Super Bowl champ Ben Roethlisberger in football, probable 2009 MVP Albert Pujols in baseball, and the aforementioned world champions De la Hoya and Phelps. And at a half-hour long, each episode had just enough time to show Shaq learning a new sport, and playing it against star athletes. There was no time for the usual contrived melodrama that is the most annoying part of reality shows.

Does this mean I’m running out to buy an “O’Neal” Cavaliers jersey, or starting a letter writing campaign to make more episodes? No. All it means is more television producers should take a look at how silly, disposable TV should be done. If I want compelling, stimulating, intelligent stories, I’ll stick to scripted goodness like Mad Men. But when I want something to zone out to while ironing, I’d like fewer housewives of various counties, and more great athletes in ridiculous Speedos.

I read that Shaq actually stole this idea from Steve Nash. Maybe they could do an encore episode in which they play a game of HORSE to settle things? That’s the kind of thing that’s worth half-watching while doing chores around the house.


red said...

I think you hit the nail on the head with the "only 30-minutes" thing. More shows should be only 30-mins long...especially reality shows.

words...words...words... said...

I haven't seen this show, but I agree with your boyfriend that Shaq is hilarious. I vaguely knew this show was on, but I never knew enough to know what channel or time it was on. I agree about the 30 minutes thing. Most people who aren't professional entertainers don't have much longer than that in them.

When I read your first paragraph, all I could think of was the part in Sixteen Candles when Sam screams offscreen, Grandpa Howard says "I hate that rock and roll!" and Grandpa Fred says "Well, Howard, I'm afraid it's here to stay." I watch that movie too much.

the iNDefatigable mjenks said...

I love me some Shaq.

Brand New said...

OK Shaq Vs wasn't bad (I watched one episode and will make all claims based off one episode). It wasn't bad but it really wasn't good.

If you want to see a much less annoying athlete trying his hand at different sports you should have watched Dhani Tackles the Globe. This show gave you Dhani Jones of the NFL visiting exotic lands to explore local sport AND culture - entertaining and educational.

BOOM goes the dynamite! Get some Shaq!

Jon said...

When Shaq was in Baltimore filming the Phelps episode, he actually "trained" in the pool at my gym. He ended up taking a bunch of my friends out for drinks afterwards, and was an all around nice guy.

Of course, I wasn't at the gym that night because I'm far too lazy to actually work out regularly. There's a lesson in there somewhere I'm sure.

red said...

Who knew so many people love Shaq?

BeckEye said...

Wow, Shaq is really crammed into that banana hammock, isn't he?

Liz said...

My bf was really interested to see what Shaq's ... presence ... would be in a Speedo. Like I said, HUGE man-crush