What Would Ryan Lochte Do?: TV Review

2012 Summer Olympics
AP Photo/Daniel Ochoa De Olza

 The swimmer shot a smile after snagging gold — and upsetting competitor and fellow U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps — at the 2012 Summer Olympics.

Though by no means essential, the series is goofy enough to be endearing. 

The Olympic swimming gold-medalist comes across less like "America's Douchebag" than some might expect.

WWJD bracelets were ubiquitous in the '90s, and the parodies of the acronym, meaning, "What Would Jesus Do?" have refused to cease ever since. Never could its purveyors at the time have imagined that the phrase would be substituted one day for the thoughts of Ryan Lochte, a.k.a. "Reezy," Olympic swimmer, five-time gold medalist and empty-headed pretty boy, but it's a question E! is asking us to search our souls and ponder in its new docu-drama series What Would Ryan Lochte Do?

Though he didn't win as many medals as his superstar teammate Michael Phelps ("don't bring him up!"), Lochte's good looks and goofy personality made him a standout during and after the 2012 Olympic games in London, where he showed off his American flag grill (basically a bedazzled mouth guard) and coined the exclamation "Jeah!" Since then, he's spent his time designing sneakers, making cameo appearances on shows like 30 Rock, and training for the 2016 Rio Olympics.

It's easy to forget sometimes that Lochte is a serious world-class athlete, because at all other times he's a world-class goofball. Early on in What Would Ryan Lochte Do, Lochte comments that he's been called "America's Douchebag."  "What does douchebag even mean?" he asks, at first seeming philosophical. "No, really, I don't know what it actually is." 

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Calling Lochte a douchebag is neither kind nor accurate, even though the premiere episode features the absurdly handsome swimmer acting like the worst stereotype of a frat boy, surrounded by Solo cups and his "Locheterage," and wearing a shirt featuring the hashtag "#Lochtenation." But later in that episode and the one that follows, viewers are introduced to Lochte's family (his mother, two older sisters and one younger brother), with whom he's very close, and it's then that we see his true nature, one which is very much like a big, occasionally irritating, Labrador puppy.

Lochte is all over the place in the series, which tags along with him on his exploits (answering the title question with a simple "let's watch and see"). In several segments, he's moved to tears talking about how much his family and their support means to him, as well as his feelings about representing America on the world stage. These moments are 180 degrees different in tone to other clips of him doing things like drunk golfing with his friend and assistant "Easy G," while wearing a "Golf Sucks" shirt, or showing off his endless sneaker collection, one pair which sports his name on the soles "so people can really walk in my shoes."

A good portion of the show is also dedicated to his dating life. Though the 28-year old claims he's ready to settle down, he says so with his trademark wink and continues his quest of seemingly dating every girl in Gainesville, Fla., where he attended college at the University of Florida and currently resides. His sisters berate him over the idea of always taking girls to the same place in the small college town. "It's the same restaurant and the same table … but it's different girls," he counters, confused.

Lochte is often confused, sometimes blanking out in the middle of a statement and saying he's being distracted by a jumping banana in his head. It's not for show -- you get a real sense this is who Lochte actually always is. He's kind of a dope, but he's so lovable you can't really say a mean word against him. In fact, the whole project feels like some kind of odd nature documentary: "here we have the Lochte in the wild, in his natural habitat. What will he do next?"

Most viewers, particularly those who are already fans of Lochte, will both cringe at his embarrassing catch-phrases (and truly deplorable grammar), then smile at his endearing love for family and friends, even though the program doesn't really offer up anything besides a chance to ogle the swimmer and see what a certain kind of late-twenties male spends his days doing with his time and money.  If you treat it like a sociological study, it nearly has value.  There's also this: those who would prefer to mute him altogether (it's not a terrible idea) will find that he also spends a great deal of time shirtless or in a Speedo. Jeah!