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TV Review: New reality game show has gone to the dogs

Monday, June 17, 2002

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

NBC continues its schizophrenic existence, touting its "quality shows" while getting high ratings off the low-quality likes of "Fear Factor."

The new game show "Dog Eat Dog" isn't as outrageous or harmful as "Fear Factor," but it is populated by seriously stupid contestants. It's also entertaining, at least on first viewing.

"Dog Eat Dog"

WHEN: 9 tonight on NBC.

HOST: Brooke Burns.


Five contestants are sent off to a training course to get to know each other; then they return to the studio and one of the most elaborate game-show sets yet. It has a pool, which serves as the centerpiece for various stunt challenges. In one, a player is suspended by his feet from a bungee cord and dunked into the water, where he has to collect a certain number of floating targets. Other challenges force players to answer the simplest trivia questions, mostly about pop culture.

Host Brooke Burns ("Baywatch") obviously wasn't chosen for her performance skills. Everything she says comes out stilted, like it's being read from cue cards, which it probably is.

"It's time to choose the loser," she announces in this show's weak attempt at a "You are the Weakest Link" catch phrase.

Burns tells contestants what the challenge is, and they have to vote which person among them will be least likely to complete it successfully. If a player succeeds, he can send one of the people who voted for him to the "dog pound." If he loses, he goes to the dog pound. At the end of the hour, the "top dog" winner faces a final trivia challenge against the impounded players.

All the contestants appear to have been coached to be as obnoxious as possible, though Skyler, a hyper little punk in tonight's premiere, probably didn't need much encouragement.

The stunt challenges probably will lose their luster quickly, but on first glance, some of them are a hoot. It's particularly amusing to see a Marilyn Manson wannabe running on a treadmill suspended over the pool while failing to answer easy trivia questions.

Less enjoyable is the blatant commercialism: Two sponsors get prominent mentions during the show.

"Dog Eat Dog" won't win any awards, and even if it's successful at first, producers will have to keep inventing new, elaborate challenges. Otherwise, its bark for attention may prove louder than its long-term ratings bite.

You can reach Rob Owen at rowen@post-gazette.com Post questions or comments to www.post-gazette.com/tv under TV Forum.

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