The Rock, TNT dump The Hero for its “natural successor”: yet another motivational show

TNT has effectively cancelled The Rock-hosted series The Hero by announcing that he’ll star in a new series, tentatively titled Wake Up Call, which looks like it’ll double down on the worst parts of The Hero and have only one thing that made the summer show watchable: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.

A press release described the eight-episode show like this: “Johnson will lend a helping hand to everyday people who are facing enormous challenges in their lives.” So yes, it’s one of those inspirational shows that have consistently failed to generate any kind of ratings or traction because having inspiration shoved down one’s throat is not very inspiring. But I digress.

TNT and TBS’s SVP of unscripted development David Ellenberg said in the release that the new show “evolved from our experience on The Hero and is its natural successor, bringing the human spirit of that show home to take on everyday challenges. In this new series, Dwayne will bring his mission of empowerment and change right to people’s front doors.”

That sounds really, really terrible–though, to be fair, shows often sound terrible in writing, and later in the release there’s a description that makes it sound a little more interesting:

“In Wake Up Call, The Rock will tackle the worst of the worst and make them into the best of the best with his own personal brand of high-octane motivation. From dysfunctional homes and dead-beat dads to sports teams that don’t gel and businesses struggling to survive, The Rock is going to descend into the chaos of everyday problems to pull good people up by the bootstraps, reminding them what hard work, passion and true discipline can accomplish.

Each segment on Wake Up Call will be a journey for The Rock and his team, as well as for those who will struggle to live up to The Rock’s herculean ideals. With 4 a.m. wake-up calls, emotional reunions and near-impossible goals, everyone who comes in contact with The Rock’s electric sense of personal motivation will grow from it, finding inner strength and heart.”

Executive producer Ben Silverman said in the release that this is “a perfect programming format that comes out of the best elements of The Hero in a closed-ended transformation show.”

I’m very, very skeptical. The best part of the show was, yes, The Rock, whose charisma was best when he was interacting with contestants on the show’s often epic challenges. However, his charisma also masked the absolutely confounding definition of a hero and the desperate attempts to define its contestants as heroes instead of obnoxious assholes that they seemed like at first.

If this new show is going to work, and not fail like other shows before it, it needs more of The Rock doing awesome things and far, far less exposition about motivation and blah blah blah.

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Marriage At First Sight

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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.