Sunday, January 16, 2011

Top Shot Season One DVD Review

As a general rule, I hate all reality TV shows.  All of the manufactured drama, the display of the worst human behavior, and the formulaic presentation always makes me cringe and I do my best to avoid it.  When I was offered this show to review, I almost reflexively said no until I actually looked into it.
The show is a sharp-shooting competition that uses weapons from across history from modern day automatics to longbows and slingshots. After reading that, I had to check this out since I’ve always been a fan of sharp shooting competitions and the prospect of the competition using such a wide variety of weapons with a focus on trick shots only made it better.

Film (4 out of 5 stars) 

While the show does share some similarities to other reality shows such as they all live together in one house, the contestants are broken up into teams initially, and naturally they are eliminated one at a time.  Once these conventional aspects are accepted, the show takes on a whole different feel which is welcome in my book. The way the show works is that a competition is set up for both teams to compete in.
Part of the reason the show is so good is due to the variety of challenges given and the novel way they are set up.  In one challenge, it may an area may be set up like an old western town with a variety of period targets much like the shooting range at Disneyland.  Other times, the contestants may need ride a chair down a hill and hit targets as they race by or have to do a trick shot that Annie Oakley or Wild Bill Hickock did.  In each one of these challenges there are different weapons used and sometimes they are modern and sometimes they are historical.  Each of the contestants on the show has their individual strenghts and weaknesses and part of the enjoyment of the show is seeing a championship pistol expert having to compete using a rifle or a bow and arrow.
The variety of weapons in the show makes sure that no one person can dominate, which adds a lot of extra suspense to the show as sometimes the people that seem the most likely to win can be eliminated because of their unfamiliarity with these weapons.  Every time one of the teams fail, instead of being voted off the show and that being that, two names are selected from the team by shooting at targets with each of their names on them.  Those two people have to compete against each other in a tough challenge of their own.  The winner gets to stay and the loser goes home.
As usual, there is some drama between the contestants but not as much as I’ve seen on other shows.  There were definitely some people that I was rooting for to fail and others that I hoped would continue.  Once of the best things about the show however, is that although there is the customary onscreen contestant interviews, they are kept to a minimum and the focus of the show is on the challenges as it should be.
Each challenge has a warm up period for the teams and they get trained on whatever weapon will be used by an appropriate expert of that weapon.  The next day, the challenge is on and both sides do their best.  When enough people get eliminated, the teams are disbanded and everyone is on their own.
The final challenge for the $100,000 prize was especially exciting and it couldn’t have been a closer match.  I was actually excited to see how the show would end which is rare for me, especially when it comes to a reality show.  The host Colby Donaldson, was also right for the series and fortunately wasn’t the usual smarmy annoying host like on other reality shows.

Video (4 out of 5 stars) 

For a DVD, the video quality is really good.  The colors pop, flesh-tones are natural and consistent, and the detail is really good.  For a show that is primarily shot outdoors and at a quick speed, this show looks great.  I can only imagine how good the Blu-ray must look.

Audio (3 out of 5 stars) 

While this is a front speaker heavy show, the various gunshots are pleasing to hear and pack some punch to them.  There isn’t really any panning across the channels but the dialogue is crystal clear and pleasing.  In a few instances, subtitles are placed onscreen for the few inaudible moments (I didn’t need them), but overall they did a great job with the sound.

Special Features (2 out of 5 stars) 

There is a bonus disc devoted solely to special features that contains an hour of extra interviews from each episode of the first season.  This is for hardcore fans only as I believe the show had the appropriate amount  per episode and any more would have lessened my enjoyment of the show.

Final Thoughts (4 out of 5 stars) 

As surprising as it may be, The History Channel has a reality show and it’s actually a really good one.  A lot of people might wonder why The History Channel would have a reality show, but the show’s focus on historical weapons fits in nicely with their other shows.  If you are a fan of weapons, or reality shows, or even just of sharp shooting competitions, then you will enjoy this show.  I wouldn’t have minded less whiny interviews but I understand that those are part of the reality TV formula.  In any case, I’m looking forward to the next season!

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