The Hero (8pm Thursdays, TNT)
Host: Dwayne Johnson
I’ve got to give it to the folks at TNT – it was a smart choice to air a competition reality show hosted by wrestler-turned-movie-star Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. It’s completely entertaining, mainly because The Rock reminds the viewer very early on, well…that he’s got charisma in spades.
The Hero takes nine contestants and makes them endure physical challenges as well as ethical mind games while attempting to gain enough viewer appeal to be voted into the final where the winner’s pot could reach up to one million dollars. I usually get frustrated with the whole audience voter scenario, but The Hero has thrown in measuring a person’s moral compass, and that makes what the home audience thinks a little more appealing.
On top of jumping, rappelling, crawling, and conquering real fears, the participants have their principles tested with offers of cash on the sly. In other words, the show asks each of them the question: “If no one’s looking, how greedy will you be?” If every contestant selflessly resists the chance to pocket easy money when it’s offered in private, then it all goes into the team pot. The way the money is earned and the challenge scenario is tiered and a bit confusing. Nonetheless it’s easy to grasp that there is a one in nine chance to win up to a million dollars.
James Bond himself doesn’t have to do half the stuff these contestants do. And the casting is genius. They’ve got contestants with serious phobias. One can’t handle heights, another freaks out in the dark…um, hello…you signed up for a show called The Hero hosted by the Rock…and you’ve got phobias? It’s such a fun twist I was sucked into watching human behavior at its rawest.
In a pretty hilarious segment, a female contestant who is terrified of heights is asked to join The Rock atop the roof of a skyscraper. He eagerly awaits her as she chants, “I’m not going to fail … I’m not going to fail.” As she walks up two flights of stairs (yes, only two) to get to him he utters, “You’re not going to fail.” It’s just some stairs and there is railing but she is terrified. She makes it and leaps into the Rock’s bulging , welcoming arms. It’s a terrific human moment. He smiles, hugs and encourages her, but then offers her some money to pocket for herself or put in the pot. A moral dilemma ensues.
It’s a provocative scenario each time it occurs: “You’re broke…here’s some money and you need it… take it or put it in the pot.” As one contestant puts it (I’m paraphrasing here): “These people are not saying no to the money because they are good people. They are saying no because they want to appear to be good for the audience that votes so they will be voted to go to the end and have a chance at a more money.”
All on all, The Hero is a thoroughly watchable show, although I can’t say the title works. Are these people actually heroic? Not really. But Dwayne in all his Rockness and the challenges make for a fun summer series. Set in Panama, I’m not sure they’ll find a “Hero”… but they may just find the ratings.
Reviewed by Lesa Lakin