Actually, I can deal with the problem I have with the team size (five just isn’t enough for the “marquee events” – even just one more person on each team would’ve made a huge difference) and I can put aside my issues with the team set-ups and how there’s no way to get invested with a team made up of random TV stars from across four decades, loosely grouped together as “TV Kids” or “TV Sitcoms”; especially after seeing how ABC squandered the potential of making teams based around one or two shows (I mean, they got 4 Pretty Little Liars castmates – they couldn’t have found just one more? And they unearthed both Jeremey Miller and Tracey Gold of 80s Growing Pains fame, yet Tracey was on Team TV Sitcoms in episode 1 and Jeremy was Team TV Kids, episode 6). But here’s my other team-related issue – and this ties into a big problem for the new BOTNS from a competition standpoint: the number of teams per battle and how they’re scored.
The original BOTNS had 3 teams, and each event was worth 100, 75, and 50 points for 1st 2nd and 3rd. The first 7 events were basically done to determine which two teams would advance to final event worth 100 points to the winner only – the Tug of War. This worked with three teams because the standard point system generally ensured that the top two teams would be less than 100 points apart. Only one occasion, though ABC had such a commanding lead that after the winning running relay they were 125 points ahead, so even if the lost the Tug of War, they would still win overall. So in that case, the Tug of War still went on, but it became a battle for 2nd place between NBC and CBS (remember as I mentioned previously, each celeb was playing for prize money and though the payout fluctuated at times, the difference between places at this time was a cool $5,000 per celeb).
The new BTONS has a more complicated system in play, and it doesn’t hold up at all. Events range from awarding 1 point to 5 points, but without any consistency. Some events will give 1 point to the overall winner, but then other events will give both teams the opportunity to earn points – making it possible to have both teams earn the same number of points, therefore not changing the standing at all. Case in point: in the original Obstacle Course event, there was one overall winner, based on which team had the fastest combined time of their top male and top female competitors. The new Obstacle Course awards 5 points to a men’s winner and 5 to a women’s winner, meaning the teams can easily end up winning 5 points each and thereby not affect the overall standing of each team at all.
And then from nowhere the Tug of War rears its head with a 10 point pay-off. Now here’s the thing: I don’t think the producers noticed until things were underway just how poorly the score system was thought out – and were so intent on bringing back the classic Tug of War, that they didn’t realize that when you have a Tug of War as the final, all-deciding event in a competition between two teams, you’ve just rendered everything up to that point as meaningless. There’s no qualifying or eliminating done during the previous Battle events, and the Tug’s point total all but ensures that no matter how much a team is lagging throughout the day, if they can win the Tug they’ll win the Battle – unless one team is just so phenomenally better than the other that they will have 10+ lead if they win the Obstacle Course – and if that’s about to happen, you might just have to rig it so the Tug of War remains relevant.
And I think that may have already happened, because FAR too many celebs from the leading team have forgotten how their legs work in the final stretch of the Obstacle Course and inexplicably stumble, trip, fall and crawl until the other team passes them and wins the event, leaving it up to a Tug-Off to decide the winner.
And this leads into our next problem. In the original, the teams of 8 had to pick a 5-person Tug team who had a combined weight not exceeding 800lbs. This kept it as balanced a match up as it could be.
Now, with only 5 people on each team, everyone is in the Tug regardless of how unbalanced the weight ratio is. So what happens then is you get a team with Bronson Pinchot, Dave Coulier and Tom Arnold, all hovering around 200lbs each, tugging against a team with male lean machines like Joey Lawrence and Corbin Bleu who probably weigh less than their female teammates (in this case, Lisa Whelchel and Kim Fields) and it’s game over. Forget athletic ability, because a team that loses the majority of events can still win the whole Battle if they can just sit on their collective fat asses and wait for the other team to exhaust themselves trying to move them. *SIGH*
So to sum up, we’ve got no spectators, random teams, screwed up scoring, pointless events and a very lopsided finale where weight can trump ability. *DOUBLE SIGH*
BUT, disgruntled as I was about all this, something happened during episode 6 that sparked some hope in me. The announcers let two little things drop, almost as asides, as if to acknowledge the shortcomings we have all witnessed: 1) they posted a montage of all the celebs tripping and falling at the end of the Obstacle Course. Calling it out, but not outright saying anything – but definitely done with a wink. And 2) They casually mentioned that if one team didn’t win the Obstacle Course, they would be out of the running IF they didn’t take a handicap in the Tug of War. Aha! It’s not much, but it does give you a little hope that there may be a possibility of a real challenge awaiting if one team is so far behind, and that we won’t see them miraculously win the Obstacle Course, but instead see them drop a member from the Tug of War in exchange for a points bonus if they manage to win.
And again, I do not want to end on a bitter note, so let me just add that it has been really great seeing BOTNS alum come back to compete. And even if no one was there to watch, they still showed that they had it. Like 62-year old Shari Belafonte, paddling her way to a win in the Kayak Relay; former CBS team captain Lorenzo Lamas, guiding his new team to a BOTNS win; or, best of all, 76-year old Donna Mills, former BOTNS athlete AND cohost (who even brought her original BOTNS trophy – awarded for her 1980 Team CBS win) not only winning, but slaying her event – Tennis – wherein she returned a record-setting 16 out of 20 serves. Way to go Ms. Mills – the spirit of the original BOTNS truly endures.