Before the Top Shot series, neither Bitter and I were watchers of reality TV. I don’t expect that to change, despite the fact that we both enjoy the show. But I understand better now what people like about reality TV. I think people can like it for different reasons, which is probably why the genre has been so successful. On one level, people can like it because people like heros andÂ villains. Because everyone can choose different heros andÂ villains, it provides people with something else humans enjoy doing: gossiping. On another level, people seem to enjoy living vicariously through their favoriate characters, as they struggle through the series. The level I think Bitter and I like it on is that it’s a pretty interesting social game, and the shooting aspect of Top Shot just provides a context we can more easily relate to and understand, more so than a series like Survivor would.
The problem with social games is they tend to be a little underhanded and dirty. Politics is really the great social game, and this is certainly true about politics. This also feeds the hero/villain aspect that many people find attractive. I’ve never been able to work up the same kind of animosity towards Adam Benson that a lot of other people did. He was merely playing what he thought would be a winning strategy. It got him far, but not to the end. His nemesis Caleb was also playing what he thought would be a winning strategy as well. Nothing wrong with that, I think, if you’re serious about winning.
So why are so many shooters upset with certain aspects of Top Shot? Probably because a lot of it violates our sense of good sportsmanship, and we’re used to thinking about shooting in that context. In a shooting competition we’d think someone behaving like Adam was a poor sport, and we’d expect that it would be the most highly skilled shooters that would come out on top. But Top Shot isn’t a shooting competition, but a social game — a political game — with guns. While I’ve no doubt many shooters would prefer to watch a pure shooting show, the variety of people Top Shot is appealing to is probably better for the movement, overall, than a shooting show not many people watch. As Caleb mentioned, “he didnâ€™t call it an assault rifle, or a military rifle, or any of the terms you see the media slipping in to demonize these weapons.Â What did he call it?Â A semi-automatic sporting rifle.” And then people see theÂ contestantsÂ use them in the same manner as any other rifle.Â You can’t pay for PR that good.
UPDATE: Maybe we can hope for a reality TV show one day that’s another type of social game. One that harkens back to an older, simpler time. Top Dueler?