Friday, May 31, 2013

Top Shot Analysis: S5 E1 "Best of the Best"

Did anyone watch Arrested Development last weekend? I would guess the audience overlap is probably pretty slim, but I felt some similar feelings watching that as I did watching the season premiere of Top Shot. The longer something goes away the higher the expectations are, and in some cases those expectations simply cannot be met.

I was very excited for the start of this season. While I thought it was maybe a little too early for an All Star season of the show, if that's what it needed to do to survive, I was happy to watch. But with the new rules, the show has sloughed off some of the pieces that made it so great.

I'm getting back in the grove of things, and usually I like to take this spot to discuss team strategy, but since there are no more teams and because there was a lot going on in the first episode of the season, I'm going to take it bit by bit and give a few thoughts about the show's new format. Starting from the top then:

No Teams
While it makes sense on paper, it's hard to justify this in practice. Sure, no one wants to go back to relying on teammates to deliver in this kind of competition, but the team aspect is part of what makes the show interesting. It's like the producers are forgetting they are making a television show. A show needs a story, and a story needs conflict. They're trying so hard to cut down on the drama, and I think ultimately it's going to backfire in these early episodes. Putting two teams under one roof is something no other reality competition show does. It doesn't need to be the main focus of the show, and it never has been, but those little bits of drama made the show be more than just shooting. Now it's as though I'm watching an Olympic shooting match, and I don't mean that in a good way.

The Boat
I'm a little confused why the winner gets a boat. I've always wanted to see a challenge on the water, but I don't know how much duck hunting these guys are doing. Why wouldn't you give them a gun and year's worth of ammo or something? It's a cool boat, don't get me wrong, I'm just struggling to see why that's more incentive than prize money or say a shooting contract?

The First Challenge
I enjoyed the bits and pieces from previous seasons cobbled together, but it did make it feel a bit like a clip show. Part of the reason I love this show is seeing the inventive ways shooters are tested with different kinds of weapons. This could very quickly feel repetitive, and repetition is boring.

The other issue with not having teams is it is going to make these early challenges incredibly drawn out. I mean, compare this opening challenge to last season's where contestants went head to head doing rapid fire shooting at a line of targets. It was exhilarating to watch. This challenge it seemed like we were lucky to see someone shoot all three targets without it being edited down. If the producers don't seem to care about the challenge why should we?

The Champions
Not entirely sure what purpose those guys served by being there. It was almost entirely fan service. I mean they didn't even practice with the contestants. All they provided was some additional commentary. And was I the only one who felt that Iain Harrison kind of got the shaft in that regard? Chris Reed, Chris Cheng and Dustin Ellermann all seemed to get way more screen time.

The Proving Ground
This is another area that I hope sees some improvement in the weeks to come. I like the idea of one shot, all in all done, but man that was the antithesis of suspense. Too many people, too little action, too simple a task. Without voting there's no element of surprise to be had in these proceedings. Whether or not someone hits the bulls eye just doesn't have the same viewing intensity as seeing whether or not someone turns on their teammate.

The great thing about the nomination range was that it was almost always obvious who one of the contestants going to elimination would be. The thrill came with seeing who that second person was going to end up being. But again, that's all gone now.

The Elimination Challenge
This is where the excitement of the show is going to live. The group challenges in these early episodes are going to feel like waiting in line at the amusement park and the elimination challenge is going to be the ride at the end. The fatal flaw with eliminating teams is that you need to show 16 (now 15) shooters each making a run at the challenge into the first 20 minutes or so of the program. That's with gratuitous slow motion shots and contestant cutaway commentary. There's just no good way to pace that out no matter how you edit it (at least from what I've seen so far, and yes I am aware these are some very early judgements).

What do you think? Are you all for the less drama more skill? Or would you rather have a few more people butting heads? Leave your thoughts on the start of Season 5 in the comments below.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Top Shot Recap: S5 E1 "Best of the Best"

Dust off the cobwebs and unlock the safety, Top Shot is back. The All Star season kicked off last night to what I would call mixed results, but I'll get to that in my analysis post tomorrow.

The episode wasted no time getting to the shooting, bringing all the contestants onto the range where Colby laid down the new ground rules. No teams. No nomination range. Obstacles and weapons from past seasons will be combined into an unholy mismatch of new challenges. And there's a boat!

The first challenge found contestants crawling upside down along a length of rope while explosions were going off, and firing the SVT-40 at a target 125 yards down range. Then they moved on to climbing up a log and firing the LaRue Tactical Optimized Battle Rifle. This was followed by climbing under barbed wire with more explosions and shooting the FN FAL rifle from an unstable platform.

The eight fastest finishers would be safe. The bottom eight would face off to determine the bottom two up for elimination. Colby and some of the other competitors seemed to be really hammering home the idea that there would be less drama and more skill based competition this year. Tomorrow I'm going to delve into whether or not that's going to be a good thing.

Gary Quesenberry, my man, went first. It's never easy to be the person who has to set the pace in these kind of challenges. There's no benchmark, and there's no advantage of seeing where other people stumbled. Gary had a rough time and ended up with the slowest time. I'm not going to go through all sixteen contestants, but Kelly Bachand smoked the course with a time of one minute 26 seconds and won himself a pretty pair of binoculars.

The players safe were: Kelly, Alex Charvat, Blake Miguez, Chris Cerino, Jamie Franks, Joe Serafini, Peter Palma and Phil Morden.

The players facing elimination were: Gary, Greg Littlejohn, Gabby Franco, Chee Kwan, Kyle Sumpter, William Bethards, Brian Zins and Adam Benson. (Note all five Season 4 competitors ended up on the chopping block.)

There was a quick stop at what is apparently a new house on the same ranch (although I couldn't tell the difference) that was decked out with photos and weapons from previous seasons. It was perhaps the least amount of time the show has ever spent in the house.

The action then moved to the much hyped "Proving Ground" which was ultimately a little boring. The  eight contestants in jeopardy have one shot with a Colt Peacemaker Revolver. The two furthest from the center of the bulls eye face each other in elimination.

If I was depressed after Gary went through his initial run, I was devastated to see he was going to the elimination challenge in the first episode. He was going up against Littlejohn and it was only as the show started to play clips from the last season that I remembered that Littlejohn was the runner up in Season 4 and had very nearly been the winner.

The weapon of choice for the season's first elimination challenge? The Milkor grenade launcher, a weapon that cost Littlejohn the title in Season 4, but one the Gary had never even laid hands on before. The Sawman made a triumphant return to get the guys in shape with the launcher and then it was off to one of the best elimination challenges ever.

Are the grenade launchers a little cheap in that it's kind of pandering to the audience? Sure. Do I mind? Not in the least. The great thing about the grenade launchers is everything about them makes it such a rich viewing experience. From the "thonk" sound it makes when fired, to the graceful trajectory of the projectile as it makes its way to the mark, to the massive explosion when it finds the target. Every time I expect to be hit by the blast sitting in my living room.

The twist this time is that the competitors had four targets to hit instead of the normal three. Gary started off strong but slowed down when the smoke obscured his field of vision allowing Littlejohn to catch up. But Gary kept his cool and was able to pull out the win when Littlejohn lost time for a reload.

The first two challenges may have been a bit of a drag in terms of pacing, but I have to say this elimination challenge had me on my feet shouting at the TV. I can't think of a better way to start the season than with grenade launchers and saying bye bye to Littlejohn.

There was a lot going on in this episode, so come back tomorrow when I break it all down and discuss what the kind of effect the new rules will have on the overall quality of the show.

Follow me on Twitter @cswiets.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

All-Star Cast Analysis: Season 4 and Champions

I got a little tied up with a few things outside of the blog. My apologies.

Here we sit, on the eve of a season I was never sure we would see. And as such I find myself returning to familiar territory. I have to say I'm surprised there are five contestants from Season 4. It seems like it would be difficult to do this (or any reality competition show) back to back. However like every season so far there are some highlights and low-lights, so let's take a look at who came back to the ranch.

Season 4

William Bethards
Not very excited for Mr. Hey Diddle Diddle, but we'll see if he can spend a little less time yapping and little more time hitting his mark.

Gabby Franco
An excellent choice and someone I am very excited to see some back. Gabby is rarely without a smile on her face and I think it would be awesome to see her go up against the best and come out the winner. 

Chee Kwan
His biggest downfalls seem to come with the obstacles that are incorporated into the challenges, rather than the shooting itself. If he can keeps his nerves in check when Colby throws a curveball, he should do just fine.

Gregory Littlejohn
My only question is: Who gets the friendship bandana this time around?

Kyle Sumpter
The guy who is so earnest it hurts. I can't really hold anything against Sumpter. He's a strong shooter, a great leader and genuinely a nice guy. But I do have trouble watching his one on one interviews.

I would rather see: Terry Vaughn, Dylan Fletcher and Tim Trefren. I think I've made my feelings about Vaughn pretty clear, so no need to be redundant. Fletcher I only started to like at the end, so I would have liked the chance to root for him from the start. Had Trefren not gone up against Chris Cheng in that elimination challenge I think he could have very easily made it to the individual portion of the contest. 

But wait there's more...

Since tomorrow is the premiere I'm going to double down on one other post I had planned but wasn't able to get to.

The one noticeable factor missing from the cast roster is the lack of champions. Iain Harrison, Chris Reed, Dustin Ellermann and Chris Cheng are nowhere to be found. I look at this two ways:

Glass half-full:
The promos already have shown the inclusion of Dustin and Chris during one of the challenges, so it isn't like they are going to be entirely absent from the proceedings. The argument can be made that these guys have already proven their talent as shooters and don't need go through it again. It also might look bad if one of the champions got knocked out early.

Glass half-empty:
This is an all-star season that is missing its four fiercest competitors. It's hard to claim being an all-star champion without beating at least one previous winner.

I wish I could tell you I have a good plan for posting tweets, recaps and analysis of each episode, but I still don't have cable. So if anyone knows someone at History Channel or Pilgrim Studios, ask them if they could send me screeners. I would really appreciate it. Otherwise I plan on getting up early Thursday and seeing what my streaming options are. Follow me on Twitter @cswiets for updates.

What are you most looking forward to in tomorrow's premiere? 

Monday, May 6, 2013

All-Star Cast Analysis: Season 3

As I look at Season 3's contestants, it reminds me of white bread. Nothing to complain about, but nothing to get too excited about either. Season 3 is memorable for all of the wrong reasons. Chief among them Jake Zweig, who walked out of the contest allowing Mike Hughes the opportunity to come back in and tarnish the integrity of the competition (in my opinion). While the right man came out champion, the show was unwittingly sucked into a dramatic plot that it had the good fortune to avoid up until that point. None of the contestants returning to the all-star season are a part of that drama, but that means their names aren't as instantly familiar. So let's get reacquainted.

Season 3

Alex Charvat
I'm glad to see Charvat back because he was put into a contest he shouldn't have found himself in. He had to go up against Mike Hughes who was allowed to reenter the competition after Zweig's departure. I've agued this point before and I'll do it again, if a contestant is eliminated in this show, they should stay out. Top Shot isn't about second chances (although I guess this season that's what it's all going to be about); it's about proving the contestants have what it takes, and if they don't, they lose. Charvat gets to try again and hopefully not get jerked around by technicalities. 

Phil Morden
Morden lost his elimination challenge because he fumbled a clip. That's what did him in, and in Top Shot, that's all it takes. He's back to show it's going to take more than small mistake to take him out of this competition. In his Season 5 video, he claims the experience taught him to slow down a little, but the contestant who is quick, cool and accurate is taking home the prize, and that might mean it's not Morden.

Gary Quesenberry
So I lied a little bit up at the top. My excitement over this knows no bounds. If there is one person I am automatically throwing my support behind it's Quesenberry. I would have loved to see him go all the way in Season 3. Now he's back and it may be weird, but I'm most excited to see who he makes friends with in the house. I almost named this blog after Quesenberry, that's how much I enjoy him on this show. It's going to be a real treat to see him go up against some of the series best shooters.

I would rather see: Jarrett Grimes, maybe? Truth be told, this is a pretty fair selection and I'm not dying to see Hughes or any other Season 3 contestants get another shot at the title. 

Tomorrow, I set my sights on the five returning contestants of Season 4. I'm excited about two, dreading two others, and aggressively indifferent about the fifth. Come back to find out who's who.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

All-Star Cast Analysis: Season 2

A normal season of Top Shot has sixteen contestants. I was hoping for this season that would mean four contestants from each season, but unfortunately that did not turn out to be the case. Seasons 1 and 4 are each represented with five contestants, while Seasons 2 and 3 each shore up three. This distribution could prove interesting when it comes to seeing where loyalties lie as numbers begin to dwindle. Today I'll walk through what to expect from the Season 2 contestants.

Season 2

Jamie Franks
Unjustly maligned by his fellow competitors in Season 2, it will be interesting to see how Franks fits into the dynamic of this all-star cast. His performance could go one of two ways based on the perception his new competition has of him. He will either gel with the rest of the cast, easing his stress and improving his performance, or his experience with elimination challenges will paint a target on his back to get him out early. Either way I expect to see a very different Jamie Franks than the one of Season 2.

Joe Serafini
Serafini has a laid back personality that embodies everything this show should be about. He just wants to come out and test his mettle through some shooting contests. Although, this personality though may lend itself better to team play than individual competition. Finishing fourth in Season 2 means he's no slouch when it comes to shooting, but this season leaves a lot of questions about how the lone wolf approach is going to affect contestants' mental games.

Brian Zins
Zins was put in a tough spot during the Season 2 finale. He had to sit by and watch as the person he believed he would be going up against in the final contest decided to change the game and let Chris Reed take his spot (more or less, I could debate what really happened in that challenge forever if I had to, but I'm going to try and stay focused on the present). Zins gets to wipe the slate clean and begin working his way up from the bottom again. Whether or not he has what it takes to get to reach the final stage again remains to be seen.

I would rather see: George Reinas and Jay Lim. Part of the issue with this all-star season is the lack of personality. This is a television show, and shows need characters. Not only were Jay and George great shots, they made the show fun to watch each week. Keep an eye on how this season is edited, and compare the personalities from the contestants' original season to the current one. 

Come back tomorrow for a look at who is showing up from Season 3. 

Thursday, May 2, 2013

All-Star Cast Analysis: Season 1

It's been a long off season, but it's time to get back to work. The premiere date is set for Wednesday, May 29. The cast has been announced, and Colby has returned to Twitter. The only question left is: What's going to happen? What exactly does the All-Star Season have in store? From the few promos I've watched, it certainly looks interesting, especially since everyone seems to be wearing green jerseys. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's start simple by taking a look at the cast. Over the next couple of days I'll break down the cast by the season they hail from. I'll take a look at their strengths, weaknesses and overall likability. I'm still planning out where to go from there, but if you have any suggestions let me know. 

Season 1

Kelly Bachand
Of the whole crop of Season 1 contestants, Kelly is the person I am most excited to see get another shot in this competition. Now, if you've been following the intermittent posts I've been putting up since Season 4 ended, Kelly's involvement in the All-Star season shouldn't come as much of a shock. That being said, Kelly is an awesome competitor and skilled shooter. He has a likable personality that lends itself to the show's skill over strategy style of play. Kelly was also pretty young when he first came on the show, and it'll be interesting to see how he has matured.

Adam Benson
Eliminated in the same challenge as Kelly, Adam is on the older end of the contestant spectrum, and as he says in his video, the physicality of some of the challenges can throw off his game. That seems to be a recurring factor in Top Shot and one that can ultimately be more difficult than hitting the target.

Chris Cerino
It's true what they say, no one remembers second place. Season 1 is going back a ways for me to remember, and while my friend Tony helped me get a little refresher last year, I no longer have the luxury of watching old episodes on Netflix. The good thing is, with a runner-up in the mix, the show is definitely putting its best foot forward trying to get the cream of the crop to duke it out.

Blake Miguez
While I'm not necessarily excited to see Blake return, I'm not indifferent either. Blake was a strong competitor, finishing behind Kelly and Adam in Season 1. He returned in Season 2 as a expert to show off the 2011 Razorcat race gun, one of the coolest weapons to ever be featured on the show. After watching his video for Season 5, History really seems to be playing up the Louisiana angle to tap into its Swamp People audience, which is weird since I don't really remember that being emphasized during his first go around. 

Peter Palma
Peter has a very teddy bear-like quality to him, which makes him a bit of a mystery to me. At first glance he might seem a little soft, but the man is a marine and finished fourth in Season 1 going up against three very tough shooters. Look for him to be the wild card this season. I don't want to make any bets, but I could see him going pretty far.

I would rather see 
J.J. Racaza and Tara Paremba instead of Blake and Adam (no offense to those guys). I would also include Iain Harrison, but I'll get to him in another post. J.J. was a more memorable number three than Chris was as a number two, and the guy is simply an amazing shooter. Tara was never fairly eliminated from the contest, and I believe could very easily have made it into the top eight. 

What do you think? Are you happy with the Season 1 All-Stars, or is History missing someone who deserved a spot? Hit the comments and let me know. 

Going to be a busy weekend for me, so I won't make any promises about when I'm posting next. Come back and take a look on Sunday afternoon or follow me on Twitter @cswiets for the latest posts.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Top Shot Season Five: Mark Your Calendars

Premiering over a year after the last season finale, Top Shot Season Five is officially set to air on Wednesday, May 29 at 10/9 CT. Since I just found this news out myself (courtesy of Jamie Franks) I'm just going to provide a quick list of the contestants. Come back tomorrow evening when I'll start diving into what to expect from this all-star season.

Season 1
Kelly Bachand
Adam Benson
Chris Cerino
Blake Miguez
Peter Palma

Season 2
Jamie Franks
Joe Serafini
Brian Zins

Season 3
Alex Charvat
Phil Morden
Gary Quesenberry (YES!)

Season 4
William Bethards
Gabby Franco
Chee Kwan
Gregory Littlejohn
Kyle Sumpter

Follow me on Twitter: @cswiets

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Through Colby's Glasses: One Year Later

Just over a year ago, I made my first post on this blog. I started this blog for a few reasons. Number one is because I love Top Shot. I still think it's one of the best reality-competition shows out there. Also, I felt that it was a show that doesn't get a lot of press because it isn't a huge hit, so maybe I could give it a little grassroots support. I didn't have any expectations for what this blog might become when I started. I didn't expect contestants to reach out to me on social media and comment on this blog. I didn't expect History Channel to start following me on Twitter. I won't claim this blog has burned up the internet in anyway, but as of this posting I'm just shy of 30,000 views. I don't think that's too shabby for some kid in Wisconsin with too much time on his hands.

Of course that success (and yeah I'm going to call it a success) wouldn't have been possible without the support I've received, so I wanted to take a minute to thank those who helped me out. 

First, Carol Vaughn, Terry Vaughn's wife. She was the first person connected to Top Shot to follow me on Twitter and to really share this blog. That leads me to my second thank-you, Terry Vaughn. This guy was awesome to talk with and he retweeted links and even mentioned me in a few Follow Fridays. 

I wanted to give a big thank you to Chris Cheng. Like Terry, he really promoted this blog over his own Twitter, and even gave me some advice when I was looking for a job after I graduated. That's a class act right there.

Thanks to Dylan Fletcher, who promoted this blog even when I was not saying the nicest things about him on it, and who ultimately proved that I had made the wrong assumptions about him. Also he posted some awesome insights in the comments of some my recaps that gave me a better understanding of how the show works behind the scenes. 

Tim Trefren and I also had some good back an forth on Twitter, so thank you to him. 

Season one competitor Kelly Bachand posted some comments while we wait for Season 5 to get underway. Hopefully, we will continue to hear from him once the season actually premieres, whenever that may be.

Lastly, I would like to thank you for coming and reading this blog. When I started, I couldn't even find this blog in a Google search. Now it's the number one result when you search "top shot blog." I don't know when the next season is going to premiere, but I'll be ready to pick this up when it does. I still need to figure a few things out, like how I will watch it since I don't have cable, but I'm geared up nonetheless. 

I have some fun new ideas for the blog too. I recently did my first Storify which I think could be a fun way to do Top Tweets, and I might try and freshen up the layout a little for some more visual appeal. So thank you again to everyone who has shared this blog or just stopped by for a good read. There will be much more to come.

I thought I would leave you with a few stats from the first year of the blog. 

Top 5 Viewed Posts

Top 5 Search Terms
1. top shot season 5
2. top shot all stars
3. top shot all stars cast
4. top shot 2013
5. top shot season 5 start date

Top 5 Countries Reading This Blog
1. United States
2. United Kingdom
3. Canada
4. France
5. Germany

As always, leave your comments below, and follow me on Twitter @cswiets for the latest updates to this blog.