ABC kept promoting Mark Burnett's Expedition Impossible as an adventure unlike anything we've ever seen.
Except we have — even from the man himself.
When the show was announced last year, Amazing Race fans did a Phil Keoghan-like eyebrow-raise: This sounds an awfully like the seven-time Emmy winner. Race has teams of two; Expedition, teams of three. Race globe-trots; Expedition journeys through just Morocco. Race has legs; Expedition has stages. Race awards a $1 million prize; Expedition offers a $150,000 purse to split between three and a Ford Explorer for each team member. (In a case of sleeping with the frenemy, Ford also sponsors Race and gave away Ford Focuses to Leg 8 winners Zev and Justin last season.)
Check out photos from Expedition Impossible Expedition
does place a heavier premium on endurance than Race
does with its stream of physically demanding tasks in the sweltering desert heat. In that case, Burnett is taking a page out of his under-the-radar USA adventure series Eco-Challenge
, but Expedition
is nowhere near as hardcore or as action-packed as that was. Mountain climbing? Rappelling? Riding a camel across the Sahara? Not a walk in the park by any means, but not "epic" as advertised either. And we've seen all of that before — on Race
. Lest we forget, Racers trekked through the Sahara on camels in its first season too.Those ornery desert creatures, frankly, were more memorable and got more screen time than half of the teams on Expedition
. Thirteen teams of three are just too many people for the show and for the average viewer to remember. ABC hoped to simplify things by giving them team names, but surely someone could've come up with something less cheesy than Grandpa's Warriors or Latin Persuasion, which are no Team Guido
. The packaging of the teams underlines the weakest part of Expedition
: The contestants feel like trite, shtick-y characters. The one exception is No Limits' Erik, the blind outdoorsman whose self-effacing humor about his disability was on display, but could also get old quickly. Then there are the country boys, the cops, the fiery Latinas from the Bronx ("We're in the Sahara, yo!"), the requisite California girls and ex-football players (could you not find room for them on Survivor
, Mark?). The Fab 3's two gay members insist they're not stereotypical gays without a hint of irony that they have picked a stereotypical name for a gay team. While Race
has always done a decent job of introducing its contestants and providing a good sense of who they all are beyond their two-sentence, network-approved bio, the same can't be said here. Expedition
's editing was clunky, and telegraphed the eliminated team from a mile away with its disproportionate narrative talking heads. Presumably this will improve as the inflated cast is trimmed, but viewers can't get on any bandwagon if the team members don't even speak until the third act.
Watch clips from Expedition Impossible
The editing also suffers from the basis of the show itself: the aforementioned test of endurance — or if we want to get truly Burnett-esque here, survival. The charm of Race
is that contestants are always on the move to exciting, different locales and — to borrow from another show Burnett has tried to steal thunder from — they seem like they're "in it to win it." Dull and plodding at times, Expedition
's trek leans more toward "boring" than "stimulating" for the most part, watching everyone slog through the stage and manage their stamina without passing out and without a lot of urgency.None of this, of course, takes away from what the teams have accomplished, or the gorgeous scenery, or the fact that Burnett could have another solid hit under his belt. But let's not kid ourselves: We've seen this Expedition
before and it looked a lot like a Race
.Did you watch the premiere?