The Hero: moments and moments of frustration that need more of The Rock

TNT’s competition series The Hero has reached the point at which viewers get to select Patty O’Neil as the hero, giving her $610,000 and the title. Because honestly, is there any way that she will not win? Last night’s penultimate episode was blatantly edited and structured to set her up as an actual hero, saving the challenge and stepping up to face her fear.

Also the other people are annoying, kind of like the show. But I couldn’t stop watching, mostly for its host and executive producer, Dwayne Johnson.

The single best part about the show is The Rock, especially when he’s jumping out from behind things and scaring the contestants, before he offers them some kind of bribe and/or choice. It’s hard to underestimate how awesome he is as a host, combining personality and pathos, and also a lot of humor and self-deprecation. It’s his charisma, yes, that makes it fun to watch him, whether he’s encouraging a contestant or screwing with them, but it’s also clear that he’s really engaged in the show.

The first few episodes presented a cast of potential heroes as completely annoying assholes unworthy of even winning Big Brother, never mind being crowned a “hero.” That has persisted, with Marty, for example, continuing to whine and cry and complain his way to the finale.

My other fundamental problem with the series is that I just do not understand its conceit. The Hero often seems to more twists and offers into a single episode than an entire season of The Mole, most of which are designed to generate drama, thus making us dislike the cast even more. (The challenges themselves are hit or miss: some spectacular, some cheap and lame.)

While I do like giving contestants tough choices, I don’t think I once understood the rationale for one of those decisions. For example, take Patti, who once had the option of 1) being tear gassed, or 2) getting $35,000 for her family and letting a stranger she met days earlier get tear gassed. Other moments, people are offered a sure-thing cash award but instead “heroically” choose to gamble on whether or not they can stay in the competition and win.

Defining those choices as heroic don’t make sense to me. What ever happened to “I’m not here to make friends?”

There’s more, too, like how the cast members have to decide who goes into various challenges. Then and at other times, they continually, selfishly demand their own “moment” to prove how selfless and amazing they are. (Marty just wouldn’t stop demanding that he be in every damn challenge.) And it got worse. “Please, you’re not letting me have my moment,” Charles said after others objected to his inexplicable decision to remove himself from the competition. It’s baffling, especially since last week he completed an incredible physical challenge in a stadium, easily setting himself up to be a contender for the cash and as a truly respectable person. Instead, he leaves as someone who backed out for nothing.

Maybe the cast got caught up in the undefined conceit of the series, and that’s maybe understandable, as they’re in Panama and disconnected from the world. Maybe I’m a selfish asshole.

What’s clear is and somewhat tragic is that TNT’s show 72 Hours, which debuted at the same time, was shuffled off to die on Friday nights (it concludes tonight, and you should definitely watch). While it also features bickering strangers, their bickering is purposeful and makes sense in its context, which is rarely true on The Hero.

If TNT brings The Hero and The Rock back, and they should if only because he is awesome, I hope the show’s producers make smarter decisions: in casting, game play, and the show’s definition of hero.

The Hero: C+

Review: Married at First Sight

Marriage At First Sight

In an era of Tinder and Grindr, instant acceptance or dismissal of a potential partner, or instant sex with another body, Married at First Sight offers the thrill of watching strangers deal with the very basics of relationships.

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.