TV Review: ABC’s ‘Expedition Impossible’ Offers Boring Journey

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CHICAGO – Have all reality shows merely become hybrids of programs that came before? Doesn’t it feel like it? Put two to three former hits in a blender and try and create a new hit. This week’s latest mash-up (and we’ll have another much-more-obnoxious one in a few days) combines elements of “The Amazing Race” and “Survivor” into ABC’s “Expedition Impossible,” another mediocre summer offering. Television Rating: 1.5/5.0
Television Rating: 1.5/5.0

Mark Burnett has developed a reputation as a reality TV icon. He produced “Survivor,” “The Apprentice,” “The Contender,” “The Voice,” and many, many more. It’s almost impossible that you haven’t seen a show that he had something to do with. He’s become one of the most influential producers in all of television over the last few decades. He often knows exactly how to make the most ridiculous concepts work as escapist entertainment.

Expedition Impossible
Expedition Impossible
Photo credit: ABC

Often, but not always. “Expedition Impossible” is a misfire for Burnett, a program that only serves to remind the viewer of other shows that traveled the same paths in more entertaining, accomplished ways. It takes guts, something Mark Burnett certainly doesn’t lack, to so directly tackle the program that has arguably stolen so much of his reality TV glory in “The Amazing Race.” “Expedition Impossible” so blatantly steals the “TAR” model with a variety of different partnerships traveling through different race legs to meet a host (Dave Salmoni) who will send the last-place team home to argue about who did what wrong.

Where “TAR” features teams of two, “Expedition Impossible” features teams of three but the unique trios are similar to the CBS hit in that they represent different segments of society. There are the former football stars, the two girls with their moms, even a team of gypsies and one with a blind guy. On paper, the cast of “EI” must have looked promising but they just don’t work as well on film. SO much of the success of a show like this comes down to casting and I just never cared about any of them on “Expedition Impossible.” It all reeks of desperation, people trying to being entertaining instead of being themselves. “Look, we’re tough New Yorkers!” “Yeah, well I’m blind!” “I LOVE my mom!” We don’t get to know any of these people and I’m not sure we want to.

Part of the problem is that the environment isn’t conducive to getting to know them. The biggest difference between Burnett’s show and TAR is that it seems like there will be no airports or lost cab drivers on this show. The contestants are trekking across Morocco, in open spaces where they will have to follow river beds or rappel off cliffs. It’s a far more nature-driven show but what someone never realized is that it’s not that fun to watch other people hiking. Part of the joy of “TAR” is watching people travel the world to cities you will never visit. Watching gypsies count snakes so they go off in the right direction? Not nearly as entertaining.

“Expedition Impossible” debuts on ABC on June 23rd, 2011 at 8pm CST. content director Brian Tallerico

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