A show to dodge
'Extreme Dodgeball' a cartoonish spectacle that fails to score
Tuesday, June 15, 2004
At 8 tonight on Bravo, there's a new episode of "Blow Out," an unscripted melodrama tracking hairdresser Jonathan Antin as he chases his dream of opening a Beverly Hills clip joint.
At 9 p.m. on the digital-cable feed GSN there's the premiere of "Extreme Dodgeball," a silly hybrid of cheesy roller derby and junior high gym class.
Is anybody else thinking crossover episode?
You'd think Antin's team would be a dodgeball underdog to almost anybody else you could assemble, but then you'd be overlooking one important member of that team, hair stylist Brandon Martinez.
An inky-armed scooter aficionado displaying more than a passing resemblance to "Real World" instigator Puck Rainey, Martinez is the breakout TV star of the summer so far, and he'd find a way to lead his team to victory.
Probably by cheating, but it'd be good TV.
At any rate, GSN, formerly known as the Game Show Network, gets the break on the sudden dodgeball surge by debuting its short-run series a few days before the premiere of the 20th Century Fox film "Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story," starring Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn and Rip Torn.
Why dodgeball and why now are questions to which someone might've given some serious thought if both projects weren't such obvious goofs.
In real life, dodgeball is a "Lord of the Flies" rite of PE that leaves indelible scars on the psyches of all non-jocks forced to participate.
In "Extreme Dodgeball," it's a cartoonish spectacle that captures very little of the visceral thrill/terror the real game delivers.
The game itself is recognizable, with a few embellishments. (A "regeneration target," when hit, allows eliminated players to re-enter a game.)
The teams, though, appear modeled on the characters of lower-rent professional wrestling federations.
In tonight's premiere, pseudo sumo wrestlers take on a team of jockey-sized players.
Other "teams" in the "league" are made up of security guards (team name: "Armed Response"), fitness-model types ("Curves of Steel"), necktie-wearing clipboard-carrying accountants ("Certified Public Assassins"), people with tattoos ("Ink, Inc."), weightlifters ("Barbell Mafia") and, of course, mimes.
Announcers Bill Dwyer and Zach Selwyn call the matches, but mostly deliver scripted-sounding player slurs.
One contestant's off-court workout routine comprises "sitting and more sitting."
Another "jiggle(s) around the court like a big, hairy Jell-O mold."
Jerri Manthey, last seen decrying the artificiality of reality TV during the "Survivor: All-Stars" finale, adds cheerfully clueless "sidelines" "reporting" to the "coverage."
Unlike the real thing, "Extreme Dodgeball" appears harmless but is only occasionally entertaining.
Example: The mime team name, "SBD," stands for Silent But Deadly, and the whiteface- and beret-wearing players remain in character even while getting pummeled by "Curves of Steel" or whoever.
Bring on Brandon and the Beverly Hills Cutters.
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A roster of familiar local faces, including camera-shy Jefferson Parish Sheriff Harry Lee, populates this week's episode of the Court TV series "Trace Evidence: From the Case Files of Dr. Henry Lee."
Airing at 9 p.m. Wednesday, the forensic-science hour revisits the strange case of Janet Myers' 1984 murder, for which two men -- husband Kerry and family friend William Fontanille -- stood trial.
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TV columnist Dave Walker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
or (504) 826-3429.