I found History’s “Top Shot” quite by accident, but by the time Season 2 came out as “Top Shot Reloaded” I went out of my way to watch every episode live. Season 2 raised the bar on the weapons used and marksmanship challenges – and also on the drama. According to one of the competitors, Ashley Splurlin, this is due in part to the fact that the show had new producers who came from the “Survivor” reality series.
Whoever the producers were, they did a good job in constructing a compelling “reality” for the season because my dominant memory of Season 2 was a feeling of dissatisfaction that Chris Reed had won only because of an alliance he formed with George Reinas and Joe Serafini that allowed them to avoid elimination and propelled Reed to victory. This is a major storyline for the season.
In terms of characters – or perhaps, caricatures – the show easily found one in Reinas. Although Serafini (who will be back on All-Stars) was quiet and even asked to be sent to elimination when he shot poorly, Reinas was portrayed as a loud-mouthed, cocky a-hole. Obviously this is constructed through the editing of the show, but Reinas contributed to this portrayal himself from the very start when he said that Jay Lim’s first shot was lucky. And also through his colorful interviews in which he said things like, certain people “suck at life” (Kyle Frasure). The effectiveness of the portrayal won Reinas the title of “Top Douchebag” on one blog site.
Upon watching the season a second time, I was able to see some other things that I did not remember the first time around. For one, George Reinas was almost certainly (in my mind) the best all-around marksman on the show. Had he not thrown his last challenge in favor of Chris, he would have won it. I’m sure there are different ways of looking at his giving his position in the final away to Chris, but I really think he felt that Chris could use the money and title more than him. Reinas also is probably more of a smart-a** than an a**-hole. As much as he talked about people “fail-boating” in competition, when he did the same he made fun of himself just as much. I’m sure he is hilarious in real life and someone you would love to have on your side.
Chris Reed also was an excellent shooter throughout, and a deserving winner, though got lucky that his one trip to the elimination challenge allowed him to shoot a shotgun at flying clay targets which is one of his areas of expertise. He also showed some character that I didn’t remember as when he shot Spurlin’s target because he went off on Jamie Franks. (Interestingly, in the blog posting mentioned above, Spurlin talks about how he and Franks are friends and on the same shooting team, but he never addresses his clearly going off on Franks and Reed’s comment that it was over the line. Or about how Jamie knew he was going to be sent to elimination every time, regardless of how he shot, unless he won immunity in the challenge.) He was also shown in the post-season special coaching Jay Lim on how to work with his team better, which was challenging to Lim. So, in the second viewing I found Reed to be humble and respectful, characteristics that are really evident when he has come back as an coach in later seasons.
Of course, the pattern for the whole season was established in the first competition. The top two shooters got to pick teams. Turns out it was Jay Lim, a high-strung golf instructor and amateur shooter and Chris Reed, a laid-back country boy who hunts to feed his family and neighbors. Lim picked his team the way I would have: talking to people and assessing their shooting credentials. As a result, he ended up with people who were very good at their specialties, but perhaps more limited in their general shooting ability (his first pick was champion shooter Chris Tilley). Reed assessed people more comprehensively in terms of their general shooting background (his first pick was Reinas and his second was Joe). The producers would certainly have found other story lines to develop had Reed and Lim not been captains, but the fact that they were was “made for TV.”
From this season there are three things I will be looking for going forward:
(1) In Season 3, will the producers modify how they do the nominations for elimination to prevent someone like Jamie getting sent to elimination despite shooting better than others?
(2) Franks, Serafini, and runner up Brian Zins are coming back for All-Stars, which I think is great. It will be interesting especially to see how Franks is portrayed in Season 5 as compared to Season 2, since he won’t have to deal with Reinas and Spurlin!
(3) It looks like a lot of the people who are appearing on All-Stars are not the bigger personalities. It will be interesting to see how that affects the tenor of the show overall.