Reflections on History’s Top Shot Season 1

Re-watching Season 1 of “Top Shot” put me immediately back in the hotel room in Columbus, Georgia I was in when I first saw the show. I did not have cable TV at home, so I was lucky that I landed on a History Channel “Top Shot” marathon while flipping through the channels waiting for my son’s next tennis match.

Courtesy of History Channel
Courtesy of History Channel

Season 1 began with 16 contestants divided into two teams (red and blue) by the show’s producers. Each episode entailed a team challenge, with the losing team having to nominate two members to shoot off against each other in an elimination challenge.

The overall arc of the show was interesting because the blue team dominated early on, eliminating red team members in the first three episodes. But you felt it was only a matter of time before the tide would turn. Blue team lost the next team challenge, and within the team some alliances began forming. This led to an epic conflict between Adam Benson and Caleb Giddings, when Adam approached Caleb about the possibility of pitting their two best pistol shooters (Blake Miguez and JJ Racaza) against each other in an elimination challenge. Caleb then told Blake and JJ, leading to Adam famously calling Caleb a “rat fink.” Much entertainment ensued leading to an elimination challenge in which Adam defeated Caleb in episode 5. (I appreciated that the Everyday No Days Off blog gave Adam a special award for the season.)

Photo courtesy of Everyday No Days Off
Photo courtesy of Everyday No Days Off

The moment I remember most from this season, though, was the trick shot showdown in episode 7 when Tara Poremba hit all of her targets shooting a Winchester Model 1873 rifle backward over her shoulder with a mirror to aim and Chris Cerino drove two of three nails with a Smith & Wesson M&P double action revolver. Seeing this really showed the skill and excitement of marksmanship.

Photo courtesy of History Channel
Photo courtesy of History Channel

Individually, because I like an underdog, I liked Kelly Bachand (who will appear on All-Stars, thankfully). Kelly stood out in a couple of ways. He was a student, only 22 years old, and a long range rifle shooter. So, everyone underestimated him and especially his ability to learn how to use new weapons. His intelligence and discipline served him well as he survived being put in 3 of the red team’s first 5 elimination challenges; he won those challenges using a rifle, revolver, and shotgun. He ended up placing 5th in the competition, which was awesome because his teammate and radio talker Bill Carns was a total d-bag to him and ended up in 14th place (and will not be competing on All-Stars).

Photo courtesy of History Channel

I also liked Chris Cerino, who was the runner-up and will also appear on All-Stars, because he was one person they showed apologizing to Blake and JJ for scheming against them, and he also expressed righteous indignation at the red team for always sending Kelly to elimination. Plumber and reserve Marine sniper Peter Palma was the highest placing red team member (4th) and will appear on All-Stars. He was cool because he could shoot, but he also kept the competition in perspective, responding to host Colby Donaldson’s question about being nervous by saying, “No one is shooting back.”

As I noted in another post, I had a chance to meet and chat with J.J. Racaza at the NRA meeting this year. I was sorry to hear that he was unable to appear on Top Shot All-Stars due to a conflict with the birth of his daughter last September. J.J. made it to the final 3 in Season 1 and alot of people were surprised when he collapsed in the shoot off to go to the final 2. I’m sure no one wanted redemption more than him.

Photo courtesy of
Photo courtesy of

One of the things about the first season of any reality show is that no one has good ideas of how to “play the game.” Everyone in the second season has seen the first season so you expect more gamesmanship to come into play, and then the producers have to respond by setting up the competition in ways that cannot be as easily gamed.

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