This article contains information that could be considered too revealing according to our spoiler policy. Proceed with caution. You can't unsee it!Reason The show doesn't premiere until a couple of days after this post's publication; we got screeners.
Will You Get A Kick Out Of Kicking And Screaming?
Or will Fox's new wilderness survival competition make you run away screaming?
What Is This Thing?
Sadly, Kicking And Screaming is a spinoff of neither the 1996 Noah Baumbach film, nor of the 2005 soccer-dad comedy starring Will Ferrell. Instead, it pairs a dozen outdoorsy survival experts with high-maintenance indoorsy types for twenty-eight days of roughing it in the Fijian jungle. Each week, in addition to trying not to quit the game and/or die, the pairs compete in challenges to determine who'll be sent to an elimination face-off challenge. The last pair standing wins half a million dollars.
When Is It On?
Thursdays at 9 PM on Fox, starting March 9.
Why Was It Made Now?
Reality shows -- especially ones that are filmed in the middle of nowhere -- are relatively cheap and easy to make, so networks frequently have something quite like this in the hopper to take up schedule space without taking up too much budget. That doesn't exactly answer the question of why it's premiering at this point in time, though. Fox made the inexplicable decision to premiere this program the day after the Season 34 premiere of Survivor, and a mere three weeks into the run of MTV's Stranded With A Million Dollars, which means the market for wilderness-based competitions feels a little saturated at the moment.
What's Its Pedigree?
There aren't a ton of big names attached to this project, though its staff brings a healthy amount of behind-the-scenes experience to the table. Co-creator and executive producer Matt Kunitz cut his teeth on Fear Factor and Wipeout. Another co-creator, David Shumsky, has had a long career in casting and production for the likes of Project Runway and Last Comic Standing, among others. Hannah Simone (Cece from New Girl) hosts.
Although the Survivor parallels are obvious and inevitable, the gameplay of this show is much closer in format to The Challenge, The Quest, King Of The Nerds, or any of dozens of other competition shows (going all the way back to Fox's own Beauty And The Geek) in that challenges -- not votes -- send contestants home. And judging by the first episode and season promos, we're in for a lot of dynamic, entertaining challenge action. The first episode saw contestants handling live fish with their bare hands and navigating mud up to their waists, and a future installment appears to involve eating live grubs ala Fear Factor. While she could certainly stand to be a little more hands-on sometimes, Simone brings a modicum of personality to the gig, particularly in her Probst-esque editorializing during competition.
When you first heard of this concept, you pictured a cranky, camo-clad dude with a machete getting his last nerve worked by a cute young girl who brought a rolling suitcase full of makeup and keeps looking for an outlet to plug in her flat iron. And by and large, you're absolutely right: that's pretty much two-thirds of your cast right there. Boy, does this show seem intent on bashing us over the head with the idea that stereotypically girly things like fashion and grooming are stupid, and, by extension, girly girls are stupid. Some conceits -- like sending the newbies into the jungle with suitcases rather than backpacks -- are clearly instigated by the producers to make them look even more ridiculous than they already are.
In fairness, there are a couple of unorthodox casting choices. The coaches include two women; a Boy Scout leader (complete with uniform); and an off-the-grid hippie. The coach-ees include a nerdy (male) chess champion and a (female) professional videogamer. What's more, some of the high-maintenance contestants seem refreshingly self-aware; for example, self-described "professional club-goer" Maxwell admits that he needs to grow up, and hopes that stepping outside his comfort zone will help him do just that. Unfortunately, the bulk of the episode is still given over to schadenfreude at the expense of the "Screamers": NBA cheerleader Nakeisha cringing and shrieking at every crawly thing the jungle has to offer, former Baywatch hottie Angelica Bridges getting swampy water on her Louis Vuitton luggage, and the gnarly allergic reaction that causes housewife Kirsten to swell like Violet Beauregarde, to name a few.
If the show's narrative arc eventually allows for some of the teachers to learn a few lessons from their pupils rather than entirely vice versa, this might feel a little less cheap and manipulative, but if the first episode is any indication, that's not where we're headed.
It's not entirely a broader, dumber ripoff of Survivor, but ultimately, this show feels less like its own original thing than a mashup of every other show in its genre, and less like new hotness than a relic from ten or so years ago. There's an element of strange nostalgia here for those of us who remember the reality-TV heyday of the early 2000s when pretty much every episode of every show concluded with a contestant getting eliminated from a medium-stakes competition, and viewers who've never gotten enough of that sort of thing might find something to love here, but the rest of you can probably give it a pass.