There are worse TV shows than Fox's summer show Bullseye. The action game show, which aired its first episode Wednesday night, has flickers of entertainment value at moments. If there were nothing else on TV, you lost the passwords to your Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime and HBO accounts and the DVR was completely cleaned out, you might consider possibly, maybe watching this show.
But it is so dumb. Without a doubt, Bullseye is the stupidest show on television.
The premise is basically this: "What if we took Wipeout (ABC's popular summer obstacle course series) and put a bunch of bullseyes everywhere? And what if that one guy from the Twilight movies hosted it?" The result is, well, dumb. There's no use in coming up with synonyms; that level of creativity is inappropriate when talking about Bullseye. It's a weird amalgam of reality show tropes hearkening back to the days of Fear Factor and GUTS, but slammed together in a nonsensical fashion. It's just so stupid — and worse, it's totally aimless.
Each episode of Bullseye has three challenges. In the premiere, the first challenge involves contestants flying above a giant target while tethered to a helicopter. They drop markers designed to get as close to the, well, bullseye as possible. The other two challenges test other skills, with bullseyes really just there for thematic consistency. "Bobbing for Bullseyes," the second task, is particularly silly to watch, as the contestants are dunked into a pool from a 50-feet distance to pull bullseyes out. Bullseyes, bullseyes, bullseyes.
Also silly: choosing Kellan Lutz to host. "I'm action star Kellan Lutz," Action Star Kellan Lutz introduces himself in the premiere. Action Star Kellan Lutz is a bit deficient in the personality department, which is especially terrible to watch during the first challenge. See, eight different contestants participate in the hit-the-target challenge, with the four women competing before the four men.
"We're gonna have the men against the men, the women against the women," Action Star Kellan Lutz says. "The women, you're up first." The Women are The Excited.
One of the women competing with The Women is Ashley, who, like the other contestants, gets an intro akin to something expected on MTV's Next. She's not competing for the affections of a man, though. She's competing for the pride of The Women. (She loses.)
At one point, the other contestants cheer a fellow contestant on.
"You don't really mean that, do you?" Ashley of The Women says to another contestant, Deesil of The Men, when he cheers.
"I think it's important to cheer people on!" Deesil says.
That's the end of that conversation. There's a lot of dead time for the contestants and Action Star Kellan Lutz to fill on this show, especially in the first challenge as each of the eight contestants competes separately. Deesil and Ashley's grand summit on peace in reality show competitions is about as much intrigue as we get.
"She's a dancer. She ain't ever danced like this!" contestant Rashad says when Ashley is competing. It is nonsense. Action Star Kellan Lutz adds nothing.
There is one truly hilarious part of Bullseye, however: the elimination procedure, which involves a walk of shame across the bullseye. It is shown in slow motion. It is incredible.
As the contestants progress, we find out more about them. Why do they want to win the $50,000 prize? It's not clear why we should care, though. Of course these people want to win money! Is Kristina's desire to win really that different than Jhaza's? (A question they should explore instead: Why are we giving people $50,000 for competing on Bullseye?)
This is really where the "weird amalgam of reality show tropes" comes in. Much of Bullseye feels like a relic of another time in reality TV history, when stories mattered less than pure ability. Now, however, on shows like The Voice and Undercover Boss, the contestants' stories are what sell the audience. Yet it's practically impossible to communicate those stories within just an episode versus a whole season.
Much of Bullseye feels like a relic of another time in reality TV history, when stories mattered less than pure ability.
It's understandable, however, when one realizes Bullseye is not an appropriate half-hour, but a full hour. The backstory, the chatter, the slow pace — it could all be prevented if Bullseye were just shorter. That would help make Bullseye better; still not quality TV, but a superior version of what it is.
There is room for dumb shows, particularly in the summer. After nine months of ambitious, challenging programming, a silly series like Wipeout can be the perfect TV ice pop for cooling off. Bullseye, though, is what happens when one overthinks the ice pop: It's the same product, but you won't respect yourself afterward.