People complain all the time about how negative reality shows are. If they’re not portraying some ethnic or socioeconomic group poorly, they’re glamorizing the shallow values of the nouveau riche. Not to mention all the fighting! Oh, the nasty, nasty fighting.
I agree that there is a whole crop of Kardashian-adjacent television shows that are little more than what my pal Dean calls “hater tv.” But what about when something entirely positive comes along on reality TV? Don’t believe it’s possible?
Well, E! network is broadcasting an uplifting reality show featuring a healthy, well-adjusted young man with developmental disabilities and a supportive group of friends with similar disabilities, as they try to make sense of an increasingly complex world.
Oh. Wait. That’s actually the plot summary of the 2001 Sean Penn film I Am Sam. Sorry, my bad.
What Would Ryan Lochte Do? actually focuses on the day-to-day life of an Olympic superstar as he navigates through a series of highly-orchestrated situations and spreads his dumbass charm around like fingerpaint.
I’m not proud to say that I didn’t watch any of last summer’s Olympic games. Not one event. But I was aware of this Lochte character because obviously the media loved him. I was turned off by his seemingly douchey ways – the sneakers, the annoying catchphrase (“jeah!”), and of course, this:
When I saw him play a version of himself as a “sex idiot” on 30 Rock, I thought he was cute but I definitely didn’t see him jumping out of the pool and rocketing to Hollywood domination. So, yeah, I started watching WWRLD as hater tv. (Also, I was sort of curious how the producers would show Gainesville, Florida – a town I love for lots of reasons, but mostly because my dad lived there while I was growing up.)
You guys. I didn’t mean to fall in love with this
incredibly hot doofus. It just happened!
Here’s the thing about the show: just like “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo”, no matter how much the producers throw in sound effects to cue viewers when they’re supposed to laugh and feel superior, a delightfully genuine affection between Ryan and his family and friends comes through loud and clear. Ryan Lochte loves his life! It’s refreshing to watch someone so famous seem to love every minute of the life he’s made for himself. Yes, he has God-given talent as a swimmer, but he also pushes himself hard enough and digs down deep enough to become the fastest human being in the water. And that kind of determination and focus is no joke.
I would expect an Olympian of his caliber to be laser-focused; an intense, wound-tight kind of person. Maybe RL is that way in the water, but out of the water, that is exactly what he is not. When he speaks, Ryan Lochte sounds like a drunk person who has suddenly found himself around a group of sober people and tries to appear like he knows where he is and what he’s saying. He often does not seem to know either of those things. But like a boy version of Suzanne Somers as Chrissy Snow (google it, people under 40), he flashes that warm grin and throws “the Lochte wink” and you DO NOT CARE.
This show is going to be very short-lived. I think E! planned for six episodes but even the premiere only got something like a million viewers. It lost out in the ratings to a repeat of The Real Housewives of Atlanta. But I have a feeling Ryan Lochte is not gonna lose sleep over any of that. I imagine he’ll be relieved when it’s over – his brain often seems tired from having to, ya know, explain stuff. And then he can happily go back to looking for love, playing Flip Cup and leading the “Lochterage” around the bars and sushi restaurant* of sleepy Gainesville.
* Jk, I’m sure there’s more than one.