The People of Top Shot: Season 4 Episode 7 [SPOILER ALERT]


I stumbled upon Bikini Barbershop the other day. The reality show “babes” cutting hair in (you guessed it) bikinis are so foul-mouthed, booze-fueled, sex-crazed and fundamentally skanky they make Jersey Shore look like Leave it to Beaver. Speaking of which, the episode featured labia piercing. The embarrassment-deficient instigator explained the procedure’s biggest drawback: a high oscillation collision between the metal ring and her vibrator. Logically enough, the interaction creates a mechanical sound not unlike a polymer jackhammer on a linoleum floor (paraphrasing)—which alerted her parents to their daughter’s self-pleasuring. What does this have to do with guns and last night’s episode of Top Shot? Nothing at all, unfortunately . . .

Where Bikini Barbershop succeeds—daring us to look away—Top Shot fails—challenging us to care enough to stick around to see who wins.

As I pointed out in my first Season 4 blog post, there are way too many Top Shot competitors to contemplate. Although there were “only” ten contestants in last night’s episode, the “cast” still reminds me one of those multi-ethnic war movies. We’ve got an Asian, a women, a redneck, a foreigner (British sounding Yank, apparently), a black man, a giant, an old guy (a.k.a., the “grizzled veteran”) and . . . some other people.

None of Top Shot’s telegenically selected competitors are compelling characters. Not one. Kitting out the entire crew in identical jerseys both symbolizes and perpetuates the lack of personal differentiation. As does the show’s rigid format, with its military timetable and blanket ban on showing non-competition (or sex) related intercourse.

By thy deeds thy shall be known. But by thy backstory thy shall captivate thine viewer. Or in this case, not.

The point was driven home when Dylan went home. He repeatedly described himself as a knife-making dummy from Atlanta. All of a sudden—and for the first time—I wanted to know more about him. Show me the knives! If you cut him, does he not bleed? Show me the scars!

By the same token (no pun intended), as William Bethards packed his suitcase in preparation for the elimination challenge, his voice-over went all church deacon and grandkids. How and why did he leave the Virginia State Police for the joys of real estate (a fact unearthed via TS website)?

Heresy, I know. Top Shot‘s a shooting show! About shooting! And guns! And shooting guns! (OK, throwing stuff too, but don’t get picky.) Check out that slow mo bro! (The editor repeated the same slo mo paint can shooting shot three times but who’s counting?) We’re talking about gun porn par excellence!

I get it. A gun website complaining about a lack of drama is like a Greek professor complaining about a lack of gunplay in Sophocles’s Oedipus Rex. I fully admit and declare for the record that Top Shot Season 4 hasn’t lost its ballistic luster. If anything the shooting show’s kicked it up a notch; more guns, better guns, better challenges with guns. But Top Shot’s lost its soul. If, indeed, it ever had any.

The basic problem is easy enough to identify: the challenges are technically challenging and all, but they are not competitions to try men’s souls. Literally and figuratively Top Shot is as bloodless as a two-year-old cadaver.

In the beginning, novelty and idea candy were enough. By now, we want to see who these people are. More to the point, we want to see them suffer. Maybe not a penis or labia ring—although it would be interesting to see their post-procedural shooting abilities. But something.

Sure TS marksmen can shoot bowling pins so that they knock over other bowling pins. Or not. Now try doing that after six Red Bulls. Or do it while the competition is shooting Simunitions at you. Better yet get celebrities to do it. Or divide teams into convicted felons and law enforcement agents.

How about something historical? Never mind shooting an exploding target a thousand yards away with a .50 cal. Shoot at a pop-up target inside an abandoned factory half a mile away. With smoke bombs wafting across your field of vision. Or how about shooting that cannon off the deck of a moving ship at another moving ship? Or trying to load and fire a musket with a dozen people rushing towards you with (blunt) pikes?

Seriously. I could share my psychological insights into the Top Shot contestants based on the highly edited “reality” presented, but I’m past caring. Maybe next week. Meanwhile, I will try to avoid watching Bikini Barbershop. But I’m not making any promises.