When Animal Planet first announced its reality series Taking on Tyson, on which Mike Tyson will race pigeons, it seemed like a joke. But like A&E’s Teach: Tony Danza, the reality turns out to be considerably different–at least judging by the trailer and Mike Tyson’s appearance in front of TV critics yesterday. Watching the preview, I felt pretty much like I did watching the preview of Whale Wars: Animal Planet is on to something here, and once again, has managed to illustrate why reality television is so amazing, because it can take us inside something we didn’t know existed and re-introduce us to people we thought we knew.
While this series is very different than Whale Wars–it doesn’t seem to have any of the adrenaline or action–and we’ll only know for sure once we see a full episode, you can see in the preview below that it’s beautifully shot and the characters look compelling. But it’s Mike Tyson who steals the show, and I think he will be the breakthrough reality star of 2011.
Talking to TV critics, he told us how his fighting career started when, as a kid, a bully killed his pigeon by tearing its head off, so he fought that kid. Later he gave us a lecture on pigeon racing history, explaining how it traces back to Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo, and saying that this was a cultural phenomenon, not a mere hobby. He’s also hilarious; when the first question was about Michael Vick, he said, “I’m here to talk about pigeons and stuff.” Later, an Animal Planet exec read my tweet about the trailer to him, and he said, “Oh, thank you very much.” This was kind of surreal, because he was extremely gracious, and because I once used to play Mike Tyson’s Punch Out on Nintendo.
Overall, he seems thoughtful and damaged and interesting, all of which will, hopefully, make for a show that’s as great as its trailer: