Jockeys debuts tonight on Animal Planet

Tonight at 9 p.m. ET, Animal Planet debuts its next docudrama, Jockeys. The series follows seven jockeys during the Oak Tree meet, both on and off the track, and also into the jock’s room.

The cast ranges from a relatively new 18-year-old jockey, Joe Talamo, to veteran Mike Smith. It also includes two female jockeys, Kayla Stra and Chantal Sutherland, and Aaron Gryder, who may be best known outside of horse racing for being the jockey in the “Pie-o-My” episode of The Sopranos.

The series will air back-to-back half-hour episodes every Friday. I’ve seen only the first half-hour, but hesitate to judge it simply on that, because it spends so much time on set-up and there’s really very little dramatic tension or narrative arc. The only tension comes from the quick, short races.

The network’s most recent docudrama, Whale Wars, started much stronger, but its cast all lived together in a high-pressure environment, so it’s not exactly an even comparison. Perhaps once all of the jockeys get introduced and start interacting, the series will find its momentum.

Jockeys [Animal Planet]

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Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.