"Hole in the Wall" a cut above usual game shows

Tue Sep 9, 2008 7:31pm EDT
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LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Oh boy. Another excruciating quasi-sports/game show travesty brought to us by network television.

That's what Fox's "Hole in the Wall" appears to be at first blush, and perhaps even second blush. There's the flashing lights, the dramatic music, the preening announcers, the competitors in loud colors serving up mounds of inane trash talk. All of the ingredients are in place to drive home the point that the broadcast world continues to implode before our eyes.

And then maybe four minutes in, it hits you: This is complete parody. Not unwitting parody but the genuine kind. And it kinda works. The frenzied tone spewing from the hosts drips with irony. And if you're able to lock into the Japanese-mocking vibe, "Hole in the Wall" isn't a terrible piece of comedic improvisation. The urge to vomit is quickly replaced by one to laugh.

The gimmick here in the 30-minute sneak preview (a second sneak aired Tuesday night, with the hourlong official premiere coming Thursday) involved two teams of three young male blowhards apiece -- one trio toned and fit (the 6-Packs) and a second flabbier and more couch potato-esque (the Beer Bellies). They're dressed in shimmering jumpsuits and attempt to mold their bodies to fit through oddly shaped holes in a Styrofoam wall moving toward them, requiring equal parts contortion and dexterity.

If they're unsuccessful, they're knocked back into a pool of water. Points lead to money and crazed gloating. Each challenge is prefaced with a dramatic electronic countdown and announcer Mark Thompson's triple-entendre intonation, "It's time to face the hole!"

Given the network this on , it's surprising that the dunk pool isn't packed with piranhas. Instead, it's stocked with shame -- but the fun kind. "Hole in the Wall" is an utterly ridiculous waste of time that's worth a glance anyway because it appears to understand just how truly idiotic it is. And there's something vaguely noble about swaggering in brazen celebration of one's own self-deprecating joke.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter