Golf Channel’s Amazing Race-like series Highway 18 debuts tonight

Tonight at 10 p.m. ET, The Golf Channel debuts a new competitive reality series, Highway 18. It follows five teams of two who race to challenges across Florida, trying to avoid elimination along the way to earning $100,000 in cash and prizes. Teams of two racing to challenges makes comparisons to The Amazing Race impossible to avoid, so let’s just admit it: based upon the first episode, this is a low-rent version of CBS’ series, and is basically The Amazing Race: Golf Edition.

Still, The Golf Channel’s series makes it clear that The Amazing Race could use an angle like this to freshen things up (although it does not need to be confined to the United States again). All of the challenges both involve playing golf and doing golf-related things, such as answering a trivia question, and none of it feels forced or contrived.

However, Highway 18 also desperately needs the touches of the Emmy-winning show’s producers. Camera operators and crew members are in a lot of shots. Like, a lot, even standing right next to contestants on the green. There are so many it makes you wonder why we don’t see camera operators in every single shot on other similar shows (answer: planning and the skills of the talented crew members). Host Keri Murphy is no Phil Keoghan, and the score’s absolute disconnection from the action makes you appreciate The Amazing Race‘s detailed orchestration, even if it is a little overwrought.

The best part comes toward the end of the first episode, as the teams race to complete a hole and race, literally, to that leg’s finish line. It’s dramatic, even if the footage sucks. There’s also a relatively interesting twist regarding eliminations. For golfers who like reality TV, Highway 18 is heaven. For reality fans, the show is like Animal Planet’s cheap-looking and pun-happy Groomer Has It, watchable but nothing spectacular.

Highway 18 [Golf Channel]