Right off the bat, ABC and Mark Burnett’s Expedition Impossible is not impossible. Nor is it original or exciting.
And because Expedition Impossible bares more than a passing resemblance to The Amazing Race, it is unavoidable to compare the two.
Burnett set out to take his original Eco-Challenge series into the 21st century with this new series. But in doing so, took away what made that series and competition so exciting and fascinating to watch and instead infused this series with reality show clichés.
Expedition Impossible does have spectacular cinematography. Burnett knows how to make exotic locations pop on television.
But what has made TAR so successful in addition to the beautiful visuals, has been watching regular Americans travel the world, interacting with locals, and experiencing cultures all while in a fast-paced competition.
Expedition Impossible doesn’t set out to be a travelogue; it doesn’t aspire to be a window into other cultures. Instead, it sets out to be an adventure, a competition that has contestants out in the wilderness, fending for themselves in an effort to…
Oh. Well, not really.
NBC’s Treasure Hunters and Burnett’s own Pirate Master for CBS tried to capture the Amazing Race magic first, but at the very least both put effort into making themselves unique and different from TAR. Granted, The Amazing Race and NBC’s Lost were both partly inspired by Eco-Challenge.
Burnett would’ve ended up with a much better series even if he did merely borrow TAR’s format, but truly take his own Eco-Challenge and fuse it in.
But Burnett instead watered down The Amazing Race and Eco-Challenge. The foundation is here. Teams of people traversing open deserts, lush forests, snowcapped mountains, performing challenges and hoping to win a prize at the finish line.
The series was promoted as being something never done on television. Heck, it’s in the title. Regular people doing impossible things on an expedition in Morocco.
But from the first episode and even the previews and clips in commercials, from whitewater rafting to scaling cliff faces to bungee jumping and having to deal with pissy camels, this has all been done before… on The Amazing Race. Much of Expedition Impossible, we’ve seen before, and not just on TAR.
Contrary to comparisons calling Expedition Impossible, The Amazing Race: Extreme, the series lacks that excitement and thrill you see on TAR and even on slower paced Survivor.
Nature documentaries and other expedition-based non-fiction series that have no competition element in them whatsoever are more engaged than Expedition Impossible was in its first episode.
Right now, Burnett has the basic foundation for something that could be good, but he’s taken it and slapped on flimsy support beams that can come toppling down at any moment. If he set out to do a more extreme, adrenaline-filled version of The Amazing Race, he’s failed. If he set out to do an Ironman, endurance type of competition series, this isn’t it either.
Expedition Impossible is a lifeless, poor attempt by a television genius who is capable of much better. And aside from the almost frame-for-frame copy of TAR, the fact that Burnett himself didn’t make this work is even more disappointing.