When I'm asked what my favorite competitive reality shows are, I always rattle off a bunch of usual suspects: So You Think You Can Dance, The Amazing Race, Top Chef, Survivor, The Challenge and RuPaul's Drag Race. But one that I've recently added to my must-see list is Top Shot. I don't watch a ton of History Channel, so I missed most of the first season in its original airing (I've since caught up), but I'm grateful that I saw a commercial during Pawn Stars and checked this series out. While it is a bit off the beaten track and doesn't get a lot of buzz, it is really fantastic and I hope that as its third season begins tonight, more people give Top Shot, well, a shot. Here are some reasons, in case you need persuading.
The competitors are split into teams and then challenged to shoot things with weapons (hence the title). The team that gets the most accurate shot or shoots the most things (depending on the challenge parameters) moves on. But this isn't like a shooting range at the boardwalk, these people are given serious weapons and have to shoot while running, spinning around in circles, falling from a height or stationed a half a mile away often in very brisk temperatures. They are provided with a variety of munitions that many of them are quite unfamiliar with. It's not the kind of show that some idiots at a bar could just drunkenly sign up for and win... unlike some other reality shows we could mention.
As each new weapon is introduced, we get the history of the weapon (it is the History Channel, after all) as well as see the competitors be given a tutorial on how to use them. In some cases, moving a finger a quarter of an inch can make all of the difference in the world. I'm stockpiling this info in the back of my brain for future paintball adventures.
It's Colby Donaldson of Survivor-fame. He wasn't exactly what you'd call strategic in that game, as he basically handed the million-dollar prize to someone else, but he's found his niche with this show... since it doesn't involve him competing. He's comfortable with a gun and has a kid-in-a-candy-store quality as he enthusiastically introduces each shooting implement. He seems to enjoy (and be oddly fascinated) by strategy and gives everyone a little bit of flack when they aren't shooting well.
The editors and cameramen on this show deserve some amazing extra credit. They film these highly technical shots not only in real time, but also in slow-motion. We get to see plates exploding, or near-misses skim the edges of their targets. It's really stunning looking, and that's not something you'd normally hear in regards to a show about guns.
Competition for Grown-Ups
This isn't the kind of show where you are going to see drunken people hooking up or skeevy people being manipulative. If you want that, go watch Bachelor Pad or The Challenge. These people hang out and develop friendships, or tolerable rivalries, but behave like adults. There are a lot of ex-military folks involved, which might have something to do with that.
It's a competition, obviously, with a prize involved, and the guys (and girls) all think they are the best and there is pride at stake, but at the end of the day, this is a gentleman's game. By in large, everyone behaves with sportsmanship. And while they rib each other, it's nice to see them helping those who are on the chopping block prepare for an elimination challenge.
It Makes Sense
There are so many game shows that have needlessly complicated rules and/or result in strong players get voted out for petty reasons. Top Shot is straightforward: you shoot well and your team wins and then you are safe. The team that doesn't win has to pick two people to go up and they select them by shooting the targets underneath their names. The two nominees have to face off in a challenge and the loser goes home. So even if a strong player is in the bottom, there's a chance they can stick around. It's all very neat and tidy that way, and not at all subjective with judges in the mix.
It's people shooting guns! How cool is that?
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