ABC deserves credit for trying to come up with something new under the reality TV sun and "The Quest," which was originally scheduled to debut last holiday season, comes with a batch of experienced producers from both the reality TV and fantasy movie world. Executive producers Bertram van Munster and Elise Doganieri oversee "The Amazing Race;" Mark Ordesky was an executive producer on the original "Lord of the Rings" trilogy.
Filmed in Austria, "The Quest" boasts high production values but its stated goal to populate a fictional, serialized fantasy world with reality show contestants doesn't find quite the right mix in early episodes.
This week's series premiere features the introduction of 12 "paladins" (AKA contestants) who are transported to the fantasy land of Everealm, home of 12 kingdoms ("Game of Thrones" only has seven!), but their journey gets largely wallpaper over with animated transitions between scenes, as if whatever was filmed didn't work requiring a patch and paste job.
More time is spent during the show's pre-episode introduction on a forest creature than when the contestants actually come upon the hairy beast in the forest (it's, like, 2 seconds of screen time).
As in all reality shows, there are competitions in each episode. The bottom three have to go before The Fates (a three-member Greek chorus) where they compete again. The bottom two from this second competition are on the chopping block and the other contestants vote on which one should stay; the loser is delcared not the One True Hero and banished from Everealm (they evaporate while exiting stage right).
Episode two veers more toward tired, boring reality shows competition cliches (jousting! putting on horsehoes!) with limited storyline, though it does end in a plot cliffhanger.
A reality competition with a storyline that melds real people and actors playing fictional characters has been done before, most notably in 2001's Fox flop "Murder in Small Town X." And like in that show, there's a weird disconnect when contestants comment on events in the show that viewers, and presumably the contestants themselves, know are not real.
When a guy stumbles in covered in blood as the contestants meet with the Queen in episode two, contestant Shondo remarks, "He looked pretty cut up." Dude, it was just makeup effects!
Similarly, when the contestants attempt to react - really, they're acting -- in response to the fictional storylines, it's pretty cheesy because they're not good actors.