Taking on Tyson: gorgeous, boring, should have been a one-off documentary

Animal Planet should be commended for the ambition of Taking on Tyson: a beautifully shot series about Mike Tyson’s actual, real-life love for pigeons.

Unfortunately, the series was boring, sometimes excruciatingly so, never mind repetitive, and its six hours should have been condensed into one 90-minute documentary. The fact that this quasi-review is being published weeks after it concluded is indicative of how it just failed to capture my attention: I even forgot to publish this. Animal Planet ended up burning off the final two hours of the series on April 4, a week and a day after its four episode aired.

It’d be unfair to expect this series to have the visceral intensity and tension of Whale Wars, but it is fair to expect it to move forward. Instead, in the first hour alone, the show doubled back on itself so much that not only can you see why it’s just a six-hour series, but you also wonder how they’ve managed to stretch all of this to six hours. Repeatably saying something is important is very different than letting us see its importance.

The show’s conceit–Tyson taking his actual love of pigeons and learning the sport of pigeon racing–was a little too artificial and probably didn’t offer enough material. Without it, though, we’d have almost nothing except some awesome shots that themselves were overused. The trailer, which I loved, actually oversold the series.

I wish more unscripted series would tap into interesting, real stories like Tyson’s, and do so with the artistry of Taking on Tyson. But I wish Taking on Tyson would have taken itself a little less seriously and offered some entertainment.

Taking on Tyson: C

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about the writer

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.