Top Shot: Part 1
I’m not a gun enthusiast. I don’t remember touching a gun at any point in my life, let alone shooting one. I do believe in our second amendment right to bear arms. There has been legal squabbling over gun control for years as each side of the debate try to define those rights found in our constitution. How are our own opinions about guns and gun culture formed? Reality shows are one way we can keep informed about a wide range of topics, including guns. One such show is Top Shot.
We as a society think we know about guns. We’ve all read the articles and see the news bites showing the horrifying aftermath of our rights gone wrong. Watching the devastated faces of mourning parents and spouses is particularly hard. As a victim or even a spectator we want to stop any possibility of such events repeating themselves.
There’s another side to guns. A respectful and responsible relationship between human and weapon. A side that speaks to the American way. That old-fashioned concept of honor and camaraderie, healthy competition and developing skills for a hobby you love. I’m talking about Top Shot.
We originally started watching to learn about the different weapons and how the trainers go about training each. As the seasons progressed we found a great balance between team work and skill contrasted to the popular voting for the individual elimination challenges. The host, Colby Donaldson, was not previously know to us. He became a real mark for the show. He’d bring up contentious material and topics and bring it out in the open. You have to admire that. You could tell he was an honest and upfront guy, just the kind of man you’d want to host a shooting competition. (On a side note, I could listen to this guy’s voice all day.)
The best mark of the show though is how the producers learned from season to season and worked to keep, what could become boring, fresh. They learned not to allow competitors to watch while others before them ran the course if watching would benefit them. They kept the choosing of teams different every season, not disdaining to choose the teams themselves for a second time. The elimination competitions got better and more challenging, some of the best ones coming down in season three. The third season also brought competitors who knew each other and made excellent motivators for teams and pacts.
The first season we found ourselves rooting for the underdog and when we might have left the show behind, stuck in there to support Kelly. I firmly believe if Kelly had not gone first in that particular individual challenge then he would not have gone home in fifth place. In fact, he could have won the whole thing, and especially done well in the “choose your weapon, range, target” challenge. I think the competitors can only take a show so far, the meat of the show has to work too. I really enjoyed the throwing knife and modern slingshot episode. The trainers really rocked here and I felt like I learned how to do both. And so the trainers became a big part of why we enjoyed the show.
The second season started in such a fascinating way. I had high hopes for this season because the competitors got to choose their own groups. The fact that a golf instructor (Jay Lim) had an open, facile way to choose his team and Chris Reed had a sneaky, clique way really brought the teams out on equal ground. The pact became obvious as they worked to protect Chris Reed. He really lucked out when he should have been put up for elimination and others did almost equally as bad as he. Then it became a popularity vote and, of course, he was protected. It really became fascinating that history repeated itself and Jay became the one the house wanted out but who managed to cling in there for as long as possible.
It’s enthralling how competition causes the best and the worst sides of human nature to rise to the surface. Prejudices and bonds form for logical and illogical reasons. The red team in Season One, especially Mike Seeklander who paid the price, misjudged picking on Kelly and would not face facts that they were totally wrong. The blue team that season really banked on red team’s bad judgement and didn’t even really get tested. George and Chris became extremely close during Season Two in the course of their pact. Because of that closeness, in a moment of rashness, George threw the game. Who would have believed George Reinas would do that watching him over the course of the season? Not I.
As for Season 3, they ratcheted it up a notch. Probably the best mark of this season is the honesty and fair play from the competitors. In my opinion, the best bunch yet. I enjoyed their competition between the “loser” red team and the “winner” blue team. How the blue team drilled and the red team made fun then secretly drilled themselves later. The elimination challenges were some of the best yet. From the first episode with the stage coaches to the cannonball run challenge just one episode later. Also this season the team challenges were more than which group ran around fastest. Team members went up one on one with each other to win points in shoot outs. The only off moments were really the ones created by Jake, and in the end he became such a learning experience.
I haven’t seen season 4 or All Stars season 5, but others have and I can see that Colby Donaldson and the show’s producers have worked hard to maintain the same vision throughout all the seasons of Top Shot. Whether you love guns and collect them, shoot in your spare time or are just a competition enthusiast, this is a great show to watch. If, like me, you’re a writer, the best moments are when human nature comes out to play. Read more in part 2 here.