Atlanta-based TNT is attempting to escape its comfort zone of scripted drama and enter the wild, woolly world of reality TV in “The Great Escape,” debuting at 10 p.m. Sunday night, June 24.
And this is not the cheaper kind, where housewives and pawn shops reside. This is where thumping, dramatic music (cue “Amazing Race”) and dramatic locales (Alcatraz! The U.S.S. Hornet aircraft carrier!) intertwine. Three couples are placed in seemingly difficult situations and given a map to escape. Whoever completes four challenges first and “escape” takes home $100,000.
“The beauty of the competition is how intense it is,” said host Rich Eisen, an NFL Network sportscaster. “It’s arranged to be exhilarating from start to finish.”
The creators include film producers and reality show maestros. Brian Grazer and Ron Howard are known for big films such as “Apollo 13″ and “A Beautiful Mind” while Elise Doganier and Bertram Van Munster have been taking home Emmys galore with CBS’s “The Amazing Race.”
Each hour-long program is structured like a mini-movie, not like a multi-episode arc you’ll see on “Survivor” or “The Amazing Race.” There are different couples and fresh challenges each week over ten episodes.
For a network, this can be a good thing. It means people can jump right into any episode without losing track of the storylines. At the same time, the downside is there’s not necessarily a compelling reason to go back either.
One thing’s for sure: it’s slick. The first two venues are ultra-cool and packed with history, history that is barely touched upon. The biggest problem: there’s no real sense of danger. The worst that can happen to a couple is if a guard finds them, they’re escorted back to their jail cell. It’s not like the guards beat them with a baton.
And unfortunately, many of the early challenges are less interesting than those on “The Amazing Race” and not nearly as outrageous as those on “Fear Factor.”
Couples have to find keys hidden in a jail cell. They have to dredge up a key in waist-high water a submarine. They have to find a key buried in the back of a room filled with sandbags and round containers. Complexity, this is not.
But the urgent music will be echoing in your ears long after the program is over.
(And it sounds like the season finale, set in a Louisiana swamp, will have some more imaginative challenges, based on this take from the New York Times.)
“The Great Escape,” 10 p.m. Sundays, TNT
By Rodney Ho, Radio & TV Talk