Review: “Shaq vs.” — The Feel-Good Hit of Aug/Sept
Posted by Mr. Feeny on August 18, 2009
“I’m just one of those couch potato fans who thinks he can do everything better than the guys in the game.” – Shaquille O’Neal
I didn’t expect it to be a feel-good show. I thought I’d be spending an hour tonight mocking another athlete’s venture into television (ala Michael Strahan in Brothers debuting in September). But now I know to never underestimate the power of Shaq. Or more appropriately, his likeability.
That’s the key to Shaq vs.. It’s so gosh darn likeable. His challengee in the premiere was Ben Roethlisberger, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ two-time Super Bowl champ. And I couldn’t stop smiling and laughing as they walked around Big Ben’s house trash-talking each other. Their interaction seemed genuine and you just wished you could be hanging with them in person. For instance, during Shaq’s training. After he ran a slow 40 yard dash, Ben started running around the field mocking him. It’s great to see celebrities of any type out of their normal element. Somewhat related, that’s what made Match Game so much fun. Celebrities cutting loose.
The “feel-good” nature goes beyond the joshing, though. Charity is a key aspect of Shaq’s life (and Ben’s) so that was definitely brought into the picture. As was having the competition at a smaller Pittsburgh high school, instead of Heinz Field. There’s also a broader message to the whole show about being well-rounded, staying active, training. Something for everyone.
There are some elements I could have done without. The hosts are set up as play-by-play announcers in a booth. But with this premise, it just ended up feeling like one of those fake sportscasts you see in motion pictures. Very forced. Ruined the flow. And they also greatly embellished the importance of the contest itself. Saying that Shaq was “trying to make sports history” and “create a legacy.” It ended up being just a few touchdown passes. Fun, but certainly meaningless. Hopefully in the five other episodes, they’ll cut down on the hyperbole. It’s enjoyable when Shaq does it (saying he’s the greatest athlete ever) because it’s his schtick. When the hosts do it, it’s tiring.
Oh, and if the show weren’t good enough on its own, there were two other reasons this episode was great. #1 – former Northwestern athlete and current Steeler Trai Essex made an appearance. And #2 – Pat Tomasulo, WGN Chicago’s morning sports anchor, is one of the hosts. His comments are nothing earth-shattering, but he tries to be fun, as he does on the news, and it works.
With these show reviews, we’re going to do grades. For Shaq vs. it’s two-fold. If you’re not a sports fan, this is probably a D. The banter is fun, but probably wouldn’t mean much to you. But for anyone who likes sports in any way, shape or form…this is must-watch. Definite A.
Next week, Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh. Shaq plays beach volleyball. Oh my. Tuesday at 8pm.