Roped in!

The Roping Show
11 p.m. Thursday

RFD-TV, in case you don’t know, is “Rural America’s Most Important Network” (at least according to RFD-TV). I’ve watched RFD-TV in puzzled awe as the Big Joe Polka Show spilled out into my living room. Other RFD highlights, just to give you a flavor, include Branson Theater Showcase, Training Mules and Donkeys, Ms. Lucy’s Cajun Classroom, National Tractor Pull and Superior Livestock Video Auctions.

Last week, I had the singular pleasure of witnessing The Roping Show with Tyler Magnus, which is a like catching a Japanese game show or a four-hour Mexican variety show – it’s funny because we really don’t understand it. Clearly, these are shows built for a very select audience. Still, if you’re in the throes of intoxication or extreme insomnia, they can be mindbogglingly entertaining.

The show is what you’d expect: horse, rope, cow, repeat. The production values make Community Access Cable look like MTV. The episode I caught featured team-roping highlights from the fourth Annual Paul Bruggman Memorial in Loveland, Colo. Magnus, the “premier horseman, instructor and professional team roper,” popped in to give roping hints using a frightening contraption called the RoboSteer – which is exactly what you’re imagining.

Interspersed between the hot and heavy steer-roping action were commercials for such baffling products/sponsors as a mechanical horse watering trough and the 26th Annual Greater Peoria Farm Show. Yeah, you aren’t going to see a lot of Nike ads on RFD-TV.

Oh, you laugh now. Talk to me in March when you’ve watched every episode of The Office three times over. Then we’ll see who’s gathered around the water cooler on Friday morning marveling over that four-steer 28.03 victory Rink Bownds and Kip Middleton pulled out against Lance Crawford and Perry Smith at the Llano, Texas, Crawfish Open.

— Devin D. O’Leary

Not tough enough

The King of the Streets
Dec. 1 at Osceola Heritage Park

When I was a diehard fan of WWF (now the under the neutered moniker of WWE) wrestling in my teens, I would wince at the punches. Not because they were so brutal, no, because they obviously hit nothing but air, and as a loyal fan I was embarrassed for the sport. Why couldn’t these tough guys stop fighting like pussies and really lay into each other?

After watching 10 bouts at the King of the Streets World Extreme Fighting event (think UFC) last Saturday night at Osceola Heritage Park in Kissimmee, I finally learned why TV wrestling is faked: Real fighting can be boring. I could forgive the generic Real Rock radio jock and his three top-heavy fembots, or the fact that each fighter had the same intro song – a variation on the tired “O Fortuna.” But when the fights finally started, most of them offered the crowd no more than a half a minute of stand-up scrapping – jabs, knees and leg kicks – before the action was grounded and one man was on top of the other, pulling or pressing on some body part until the other submitted. Of course, to the two men locked in a fleshy, painful knot, the struggle was all too intense. But repeated, antsy cries of “Stand ‘em up!” towards the referee presiding over the grunting heap of men clearly indicated the crowd’s fighting style of choice.

There were moments that brought me fondly back to the TV soap opera of my youth. One fighter pulled a victory backflip off the top of the cage and another ended up in the row behind me, bragging about his win in such a cocky manner it would have made the Rock happy. Yet overall, if I had $25 to burn and I wanted to see half-naked men rolling around on their backs, grunting in pain, I could get a lot more bang for my buck at Fairvilla.

— Jeff Gore

A pleasant surprise

Kid Nation
8 p.m. Wednesday

The most pleasant surprise of the TV season to date has to be the CBS reality show Kid Nation. Not because it turned out to be safe for the 40 kids involved – despite all the pre-debut hand-wringing, how could anyone seriously think CBS would endanger children? – but because it’s been fun to watch these 8- to 15-year-olds try to work together for the common good.

The show brought together kids from all over the country, plunked them in the middle of Bonanza City, an abandoned town in New Mexico that looks like a movie set, and gave them the run of the place for 40 days. For 11 weeks (Wednesday, Dec. 5, is episode 12 and Wednesday, Dec. 12, is the season finale), viewers have watched them attempt to govern each other, do the work needed to keep the town running, compete, fight, grapple with their differences, console each other and ultimately dole out gold stars worth $20,000 to those who have lived up to the highest ideals. The show introduced us to a number of kids you’d be proud to have raised and a few who’ve made really good reality-show villains.

Jonathan Karsh, who hosts Kid Nation –meaning he’s on camera to oversee the kids’ reward challenges and observe their town council meetings – said he’s been fascinated to watch the kids in action. And the best is yet to come, he said. This week will show what happens when Sophia, who describes herself as a “30-year-old trapped in the body of a 14-year-old,” takes over as town sheriff. And in the finale, he promises “an incredible surprise for these kids that will blow them all away – much more than a $20,000 gold star giveaway.”

In a telephone interview, Karsh talked about the show, which is now casting for a second season (though it hasn’t been officially picked up yet), the kids and more.

Marc D. Allan

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