Remember Cannonball Run? Nobody else seems to

Thursday night, USA Network debuts The Moment, a reality series starring NFL player Kurt Warner. The network’s press release calls it “USA Network’s new original reality series” that “follows the dramatic journeys of nine lucky individuals who are given a second shot at pursuing their dream career.”

In their reporting on the show, however, several publications call the show the network’s “first” reality series. Those that did that include TV Guide, The Hollywood Reporter, Cynopsis, and Deadline, which actually acknowledged this was part of “the network’s plans to re-enter the reality arena” yet still called the show “its first original unscripted series.” In fairness, some did get it right, like Variety.

Calling a 2013 series the network’s first reality show is not at all accurate: USA aired Mark Burnett’s Combat Missions in 2002, while Nashville Star from 2003 to 2007. And there was also the 2011 revival of WWE’s Tough Enough. Those weren’t small shows, and our short attention spans sadden me.

But I’m mostly crushed because we’ve all but forgotten that, in 2001, USA aired a five-hour, five-episode reality series called Cannonball Run 2001–or maybe The Real Cannonball Run. Not only does it escape the memory of the media, but it has also virtually disappeared from the planet, as far as I can tell.

Yet it was one of the best early reality competitions and pre-dated even The Amazing Race, which was very similar. The show was a cross-country race featuring teams of two–and a third person who was almost literally a third wheel (two frat boys raced with an older woman named Princess, for example, on a team called Alpha Gamma Grandma; Survivors Sue Hawk and Jeff Varner raced with Kaya from Temptation Island).

Although it was just five episodes and five hours, it was the great mix of personality and competition, with that magic of the early years of reality TV where things were being discovered instead of retread and sensationalized. Mostly, it was just fun.

The show seems to have completely vanished, coming and going without much attention. I didn’t even give its stories their own category. All Your Screens has a summary of the first couple episodes and, on its old site, team descriptions, but there’s very little about the show online.

The clip below is the only one I could find, but does not do the series any justice. How very tragic.

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Beyond the headline-grabbing premise, the series has turned out to be a stripped-down, authentic exploration of something very interesting. Read the full review.

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.