The "Top Shot" cast has some itchy trigger fingers (AETN/Chapman Baehler)Whenever 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 shows, 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. As the show's third season begins tonight, I hope 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 (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 on the boardwalk. These people are given serious weapons and have to shoot while running, spinning around in circles, falling from a particular height, or stationed half a mile away -- and often in brisk temperatures. They are given 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 learn the history of the weapon (it is the History Channel, after all) and watch as the competitors get 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 he doesn't actually have to compete. 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 is oddly fascinated by) strategy and gives everyone a little bit of flack when they aren't shooting well.
The editors and camera operators on this show deserve some amazing extra credit. Not only do they film the highly technical shots in real time, but they also show the clips in slow motion. We get to see plates exploding and near-misses skim the edges of their targets. It really looks stunning, and that's not something you 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 -- so the guys (and girls) all think they are the best, and there is plenty of pride at stake. But at the end of the day, this is a gentleman's game. By and large, everyone shows good sportsmanship. And, while they do 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 that result in strong players getting voted out for petty reasons. "Top Shot" is straightforward: If you shoot well and your team wins, 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 at the bottom, there's a chance that he or she will stick around. It's all very neat and tidy that way, and not at all subjective, since there are judges in the mix.
It's people shooting guns! How cool is that?
The new season of "Top Shot" premieres Tuesday, 8/9 at 10pm on History.
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