Race to the Scene: TV Review
9 p.m. Thursday, June 6 (Reelz)
The Hochberg Ebersol Company
Reelz continues to expand its original content with a new Dolph Lundgren-hosted competition series that sends teams racing across Los Angeles.
Action star Dolph "I must break you" Lundgren -- who Roger Moore once said "is larger than Denmark" -- is master of both ceremony and quips in Reelz's new Amazing Race-esque competition series Race to the Scene. Each week, three teams of two visit a pair of iconic movie filming locations in and around Los Angeles and complete obstacles for the chance to win a luxury RV and $10,000 in cash. Sisters-in-law, best friends, boyfriends and girlfriends, brothers and married couples all populate the series, with varying degrees of frustration towards each other, but unlike The Amazing Race, there is a winner and new set of competitors in each episode.
One of the major draws of The Amazing Race is the fact it doubles as a travel series, zooming all over the world to beautiful locales. In Race to the Scene, competitors are limited to L.A. sights, which, out of the context of their movies, don't really provide much eye candy ("this was the football field where Forrest Gump ran," or "this is the tunnel where a scene in Independence Day was shot" leaves something to be desired). Still, it makes sense when it comes to Reelz's movie-centric programming. Plus, as location tours are a thriving business in L.A., some movie set junkies might find it worthy of oohs and ahhs.
The obstacle courses are themed with one of two movies featured in each episode (movies like Back to the Future, Terminator 2, Pulp Fiction and E.T.), and often include a lot of running back and forth, puzzles and one low-grade stunt act. The mix of skills and luck helps even the playing field if one team falls too far behind, but it can also mean that a deserving duo might get squeezed out of the prize at the last minute.
Lundgren's contribution is primarily to dress up and say a few theme-appropriate lines to start each episode, but his capacity as host essentially boils down to making fun of and harassing competitors with insults like "you're slower than Lieutenant Dan, and he had no legs!" Puns and wordplay abound, but Lundgren's one-liners are no match for some of the punchy competitors: "I'm a Muslim running at night with a detonator and a ball of wires in my hand … this is not going to play well in downtown L.A.," one contestant jokes.
Occasionally, hilariously, Lundgren refers to himself in the third person with observations like, "That what it's like to be Dolph, I do this every day," and "inspiring millions of people to save the planet? That's like being Dolph Lundgren." But even competitors who are at first excited to meet the action star seem to tire of his chatter as the day goes on. "If he's going to come over here and yell at us, he might as well help," one member of an episode's Green Team comments as she squeezes water from a plush cat that looks like Jinxy from Meet the Fockers into a toilet bowl.
Lundgren is known for a bevy of accomplishments in addition to his action roles -- he has a degree in chemical engineering and speaks seven languages -- but he's limited here to things like putting on a wedding dress for a Bridesmaids competition and standing to the side saying variations of "Hurry up, Red Team!" Like another Hochberg Ebersol production, The Moment on USA, which was hosted by NFL MVP quarterback Kurt Warner, the series doesn't seem to know what to do with its famous host, who often comes across as being slightly bored with the proceedings.
L.A. residents might enjoy some slight schadenfreude as the competitors use GPS to wander the streets of downtown or navigate the freeways (one of the biggest challenges for some of the teams, just like for most Los Angelenos, is traffic), but overall the show lacks a certain spark. Pacing is also an issue: The show feels both too long and too short -- just as we get to know the competitors, it's over. But in between, some of the obstacles seem to go on forever.
Reelz has been diversifying its programming in the last few years with well-received original series like Bomb Girls and the excellent religious miniseries Barabbas, but the middling Race To The Scene just doesn't quite measure up. To end each episode, Lundgren says "You're welcome" to viewers. I can't quite remember saying thank you.