Last Tuesday, I saw my first episode of Top Shot on the History Channel (they're in the middle of Season 4).
By this weekend, I had completed watching all of seasons 1 and 2 (the only ones available on Netflix). That's a rather brisk pace, even for me -- and particularly so given that I have no shooting background or any real desire to fire a gun (ditto for Jill, who really likes the show too). So what gives? Why is Top Shot so compelling? I can think of a few reasons.
* Genuinely interesting challenges. Top Shot is very good on variety, not just in the weapons they use but the way they have them used. Almost every episode involves people doing things that just look cool.
* (Relatively) little drama. There's not none -- there are definitely cliques that form and alliances and such (more in Season 2 than Season 1). But it's not forced, and it's not rammed down your throat.
* Great camera work. The high-speed cameras mean you get to watch bullets piercing jugs of liquid in exquisite slow motion. That never gets old.
* It's objective. There's really no place for biased judging like on, say, Project Runway. You hit the target or you don't. You go faster or you go slower. No excuses. No way for weak shooters to slide by because they have a back story the producers like.
* I can appraise it. Listen, I really like Hell's Kitchen. But at some level, I'm just taking the announcer's word for it as to what's happening and how people are doing (wow, I bet that beef wellington really was delicious!). By contrast, on Top Shot I can see what is happening. I see that the target was hit, or I see that it wasn't. I don't feel like I'm being led by the nose.