Reality shows. Ever since “Survivor” became so popular, I’ve been stuck wondering what people see in them. I can honestly say I’ve watched only two or three “Survivor” episodes since they came out; all of those viewings were under duress. To me, these shows glamorize the very worst in people. The winning contestants make the grade by manipulating others, forming cliques or “alliances,” dividing others by casting doubt and deception, and victimizing those in the “out” group.
If it is true that there is an exception to every rule, I just watched the final episode of such an exception. “Who Wants To Be A Superhero” was in many ways, an “anti”-reality show. Entertaining enough that both my wife and I were hooked, it was filled with good-natured fun, positive messages, and delightful twists that kept us laughing out loud.
Contestants competed to become the next great comic book superhero, immortalized by Stan Lee (creator of Spider-Man, X-Men, and many more comic book heroes) in their own comic book. They dressed and lived AS the superhero they created. How they competed was what really drew me to the show. Lee told the superheroes right off that he knew he couldn’t judge them on how high they could leap, how fast they could fly, or if they could stop a speeding train. He made it clear that he was going to test them on virtuous character traits that a true superhero would possess on the inside.
Through twice weekly tests, Lee evaluated the superheroes on heart, compassion, intelligence, courage, honesty, integrity, and selflessness. Each challenge was complete with unexpected twists and turns, in true comic book fashion. When Stan summoned them to the roof of the lair for an elimination, it was sad for everyone. It wasn’t a cutthroat game of survival. It was a bunch of people who, for various reasons, wanted to be Stan Lee’s next great superhero.
Was the show corny? Sure. But it was the most original and most fun thing I’ve seen on TV in quite awhile. Thank you, Mr. Lee.