Your summer vacation is probably way more fun than 72 Hours. But TNT’s new reality series which combines The Amazing Race and Survivor is way more fun for television viewers. Nine contestants, divided into groups of three each with their own episode, race against each other through a three-day course on the hunt for $100,000. They must make it to three supply drops and then decide which of the items will be useful (matches) or not (a bamboo mat), while also putting up with the physical challenges, the elements, and the monsters that their fellow contestants can become in front of a camera when deprived of food.
The reality show's factory-built structure belies a clever redundancy: Every episode is another batch of the same: in one episode, the teams are heading to Hawaii; in another, one of them might have a heart attack; yet another finds everyone snorkeling on the beach. Like other snackable television like this, 72 Hours isn’t afraid of delivering everything you want, including not just a few reality competition tropes but all of them. It's a trope buffet. (It's only a matter of time before the 30-something tennis coach enrages his two female companions.) But the beauty of it all is that just about 40 minutes later (the length of one episode), the cast packs up and a new batch flies in. The tropes never last that long.
Each episode truly draws a different response. I loved the first episode, with its bait-and-switch story of the far-behind green team and the one girl who saved them a tall, blonde, professional pimple-popper who uses hand sanitizer to start fires. But the second episode was a whiny slog. Everyone hates climbing! But, alas, the third shuffled the deck (new location; new teams; new briefcase with $100,000) and sucked me right back in. B