Monday, July 24, 2017

Top 10 Nonfiction TV Shows

I already made at least four lists on my all-time favorite TV shows (see Top 10 Anime Series, Top 20 TV Series [That Had Already Concluded], Top 20 Animated TV Series, and Top 10 TV Shows That Ran Before I Was Born).  But they only covered the “fiction” side of things.  Now, in this list, the “nonfiction” side – game shows, documentaries, reality shows, educational programs, etc. – is going to be tackled.

The setup of each episode involves the host Bear Grylls being left stranded in a particular remote region.  He will then display his survivalist and innovation skills – most notably, eating and drinking whatever is necessary to survive, regardless of how nasty they are.  The show demonstrates the possible options one has when he finds himself lost or stuck in the wild in order to survive and find a way back to civilization.  The narrative is presented as if Bear is performing tasks on the fly and without any support team on hand, but that’s not necessarily the case.  Still, the show effectively sells the illusion, making it very thrilling as well as educational.

Gordon Ramsay is easily one of the most magnetic TV personalities ever.  Any of his shows – most especially Kitchen Nightmares, Hell’s Kitchen, and MasterChef – make good TV entertainment.  It’s not only because of his incredible talents as a chef, and the mesmerizing way he articulates the process of his cooking, but also because the words that come out of his mouth whenever he gets infuriated is the most savage, most hilarious insults and expletives I’ve ever heard (my favorite is “There’s more olive oil on this than Popeye’s d*ck.”  I remember spitting what I was drinking when I heard that.).  He can be awkwardly mean, but whatever mood he’s in, he delivers a fun time.

Survivor was my first encounter with the “reality competition” TV genre.  The show puts contestants of varying backgrounds on an isolated place, where they need to figure out how to provide food, water, shelter, fire, and other needs for themselves, while competing in regular challenges for rewards and immunity from being eliminated.  Contestants are progressively eliminated in a stretch of many days until one remains for the grand prize of a million bucks.

I no longer watch this show; only watched its first few seasons (it’s currently at 35 seasons as of writing!).  But I remember keenly following each episode when I still did.  Back then, I really found the premise, mechanics, and “realistic drama” deeply unique and engrossing.

There were no Youtube travel vloggers (or Youtube, for that matter.  Or even ready access to the Internet) when I was a kid, so I turned to Lonely Planet (also known as Globe Trekker) for information and immersion regarding the different spots, foods, cultures, and activities around the world.

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been fond of animal documentaries on TV.  But the most gorgeous and stirring among them is easily Planet Earth and its sequel Planet Earth II, making them my favorites and the sole animal/nature show in this list.  (Also, honestly, I already forgot the titles of the old animal documentaries I used to watch at Discovery Channel and National Geographic as a kid.)

The Amazing Race is my favorite “reality game show” of all time.  It’s basically a race around the world, so it’s like a game show and a travel show rolled into one.  The contest is divided into legs, wherein teams of twos race each other to get to “Pit Stops.”  Along the way, teams have to go to different locations and perform the tasks respective to those locations in order to obtain the clues for their next destinations – the last one being the Pit Stop for that leg.  The order of which teams arrive at the Pit Stop determines the order they will have to depart from it for the next leg.  Usually, the last team that arrives in the leg’s Pit Stop is eliminated, but sometimes, no elimination is done – they only need to set off last.  Winners of a leg are sometimes given prizes, like cruises.  Teams are progressively eliminated until only three are left for the final leg.  The winner of the final leg is the overall winner of the game.

I’m no longer a regular viewer, since the setup and competition dynamics are basically the same in each season – if you’ve seen a few seasons, it’s like you’ve seen all the show has to offer.  Still, I do watch an episode once in a while.

4.) QI
QI (which means Quite Interesting) is a British comedy panel quiz show hosted by Stephen Fry until 2016 (Sandi Toksvig replaced him).  It involves a panel composed of Alan Davies (who is a permanent panelist of the show) and three guest comedians answering various difficult, cryptic trivia questions.  The aim isn’t necessarily to offer the correct answers, but interesting ones.  Points are of course given to correct answers, but points are also given to interesting answers.  The host and panelists then discuss the topic raised by that question further, offering bits of knowledge in relation to it that they personally know, before proceeding to the next one.

However, points are deducted when one gives a boring, obvious answer – usually a misconception that is generally believed as true.  Alan Davies is usually the one that gives these boring, obvious answers, and he often ends up last.  It’s not necessarily because Davies is dumb; he’s actually quite quick and witty.  But by employing his sharpness as a comedian to play the dimwit – from which Fry and the rest feed off good-humored annoyance – an uproarious, lively discussion is incited.

Though it’s not free of factual errors, I find it as informative as it’s hilarious.

In MythBusters, special effects experts Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman, along with their “second unit” team, conduct experiments in order to verify the validity or feasibility of rumors, urban legends, conspiracy theories, adages, TV and movie scenes, popular beliefs, etc.  The concept is simply brilliant, and I really learned tons of stuff from it.

This kids’ action-adventure game show was the bomb in the 90’s.  Hosted by Kirk Fogg and Olmec (voiced by Dee Bradley Baker), each episode revolves around a particular legend, from which the games are themed from.  The contest proper involves six two-person teams – the Red Jaguars, the Blue Barracudas, the Green Monkeys, the Orange Iguanas, the Purple Parrots, and the Silver Snakes – competing in three rounds of eliminations in order to determine which team will go to the final round.  In the final round, which is called “The Temple Run”, a relic from the episode’s featured legend has to be retrieved from the eponymous temple within three minutes.  There are twelve themed rooms in the temple, with each room containing a particular puzzle that needs to be solved before a door to the next room is opened.  The temple also hides “Temple Guards”, which remove a player from the temple when caught.  The Temple Guards can be pacified by “Pendants of Life”, the pieces of which are earned during the “Temple Games” (the third round) or found within the temple.

It was pretty awesome.  My playmates and I were even inspired to create and perform our own versions of the “Temple Run” back then.

WLIIA? is one of the most hilarious things I’ve ever encountered.  It’s originally a British show, but the American version is what I became familiar with.  Hosted by Drew Carey (and by Aisha Tyler in the revival), it’s an improv comedy show where four participating comedians have to perform specific on-the-spot comedy (whether it’s a song, skit, spoof, characterization, etc.) depending on the requirements of what is the “game” (e.g. Let’s Make a Date, Hats, Greatest Hits, Hoedown, Scenes from a Hat, Props, Newsflash, Weird Newscasters, Party Quirks, and many, many more) on hand.  Three of the four spots are regularly filled by Ryan Stiles, Colin Mochrie, and Wayne Brady, while the fourth is filled by a recurring guest – usually Brad Sherwood, Greg Poops, Chip Esten, Jeff Davis, or Kathy Greenwood.  Huge comedy stars like Whoopi Goldberg (who was pretty weak), Stephen Colbert, and Robin Williams (in one of my most favorite episodes) have also filled the “fourth spot” in some episodes.

Sometimes, I’ve wondered if none is really scripted.  It’s because their performances are just perfect.  Wayne always creates the perfect lyrics, ad-libbing a song as if he has sung it many times before.   And Ryan and Colin’s chemistry and timing are always in sync.  They’re simply too good – too quick-witted.

WLIIA? is comedy at its rawest and cleverest.  And that’s why it’s one of the greatest things that ever happened on TV.

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