Reality Television

Battle of the Network Stars

Aired on: ABC

Reviewed by Melissa Minners

                ABC has been bringing back some of its old game shows and I have been enjoying them immensely.  Prime time in the summer has seen the return of Family Feud, Pyramid, Match Game, The Gong Show (they could have left that one retired) and more.  But I was never more excited than the day that ABC announced the return of Battle of the Network Stars.  I loved watching actors and actresses from my favorite television series battling it out in the sports arena.  I couldn’t wait to see the new version of this classic favorite.

                In the new Battle of the Network Stars, instead of teams made up of shows from ABC, NBC and CBS, the powers that be have decided to group the teams differently.  This makes sense, since ABC, NBC and CBS are no longer the powerhouse channels they used to be.  All of the networks have new and exciting programming and it would be difficult to get that many teams together…though wouldn’t it be cool to see HBO battling FX or Showtime against TNT?  Instead, we have teams like TV Sitcoms, TV Kids, TV Moms and Dads, Variety, TV Sex Symbols, White House, TV Lawyers and more, featuring actors and actresses  like Marlee Matlin, Corbin Bernsen, Catherine Bell, Joshua Malina, Matt McGorry, Elisabeth Rohm, Taye Diggs, Vivica A. Fox, Nicole Eggert, Catherine Bach, Jenna Von Oy, Todd Bridges, Ian Ziering, Mischa Barton, Shari Belafonte, Michael Fishman, Joey Lawrence, Tracey Gold and more.  Each team consists of six players from the particular category rather than nine from a network.  The red team is coached by MMA star Rhonda Rousey and the blue team is coached by football sensation DeMarcus Ware.

                As the players prepare to compete they are interviewed by sideline reporters Cassidy Hubbarth and Cari Champion and in-action commentating are accomplished by Mike Greenberg and Joe Tessitore, all of ESPN fame.  Of course, we miss Howard Cosell’s commentating and interviews, but, since the man is long dead, we will have to make do, right?  The events have also changed up a bit.  The original events included swimming, kayaking, volleyball, golf, tennis, bowling, cycling, football, the dunk tank, running and the obstacle course.  Back then it was three teams competing against each other and the team with the lowest score was eliminated.  The two remaining teams were pit against each other in a tug of war.  The new version of Battle of the Network Stars features the relay race, swimming, kayaking, the dunk tank, basketball shooting, archery, golf, tennis and the obstacle course, culminating in the tug of war.

                Thus far, I have watched three episodes of the new Battle of the Network Stars and I have to say, this show takes me back.  When you consider that the original series lasted from 1976 through 1988, you realize that this show ran during my most formidable years.  It made young kids like me realize that exercise was important, that being out there and trying new things that you weren’t used to or were not necessarily good at was important.  If these actors could go out there and do it on national television, often making themselves look silly in the process, why couldn’t we?  Of course, that was before we were cynical adults saying, “Hey, they’re getting paid to sink or swim in these events.”  Perhaps a new generation will be just as inspired as we once were when watching this television series.

                I have to say, the flow of the show was a little stilted in the first episode, but after a while, things started really moving and I have a lot of fun watching, trying to decide who is the better team to root for.  Plus, depending on the event and who is performing, there are often some hot babes to gawk/drool over and surprises in the mix.  The first episode featured a total upset as the red team was leading to the very end and were destroyed in the tug of war.  Personally, I think too many points are rewarded to the tug of war winner and I don’t think the anchor should be allowed to turn around and haul the rope back behind them, but that’s just me.

                Overall, I found the new Battle of the Network Stars just as entertaining as the series I loved in my youth and plan on parking myself in front of the television…er, um, or lifting weights while using my stepper, yeah, that’s right…every Thursday night at 9pm EST to watch Battle of the Network Stars on ABC all summer.


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