Cast: Twelve reality show contestants ages 22-41 from around the country
Airs: The premiere episode airs at 7 p.m. Thursday on ABC
The premise: “The Quest” is a new reality based competition series that takes 12 contestants to a world where ogres run free in the forest, dragons stir, agents of a dark lord infiltrate the keep, and the only thing standing between peace and chaos are one dozen very unlikely heroes. In and around a castle, a fantasy world called Ever Realm comes to life with state-of-the art projections, animatronics, prosthetics and art direction. The narrative and mythology of “The Quest” is designed to blend with the unexpected actions and decisions of the contestants. The show is filmed on location in Austria was created by the executive producer of “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy and the executive producers of “The Amazing Race.”
Highs: While researching this show I was leery on exactly what was meant by “reality based competition.” Initially I thought this meant this was a fake reality show but it’s not. There is a storyline in “The Quest” but the actions of the contestants are completely up to them. It’s like watching someone go through the world’s most immersive Disneyland ride. There are actors in character who provide background, ambience and plot points and help tell the story of the show to the contestants. It all adds a sense that what’s going on is real.
The sets are first rate and add to the convincing atmosphere. I’m not sure how much money was spent on this production but it seems like a ton. I hate to use the theme park reference again, but I just kept thinking this would be “Medieval World” if Disney had something like that.
The cast is diverse and interesting. They’re a nice mix of men, women, racial backgrounds and professions. They’re into what’s going on, but not so much to seem overly enthusiastic and not so little that it looks like they’re making fun of the process. The cast knows it’s a TV show, but they’re having fun with getting lost in the experience. This helps set the tone for how viewers should experience the show.
Lows: One of the most enjoyable things about watching a reality show is living vicariously through its participants. When I watch “Chopped,” I wonder how well I would do because I only know how to make grilled cheese sandwiches and ham and cheese omelettes. And toast. And cereal. When I watch “Survivor” I picture myself on the island, then after an episode airs I talk strategy with my brother for an hour. When I watch “The Amazing Race” I wonder how my brother and I would do. Do I feel the same way about “The Quest?” No. I’m as nerdy as they come but even I would never want to be on this show.
Grade: (B-): While it fails the “Vicarious Living” test, there is still plenty of fun to be had with “The Quest.” In many ways this program is much more like a live action choose your own adventure story than reality show. If viewed that way there’s an escapist vibe to “The Quest” that’s a lot less expensive to experience than anything at Universal Studios or Disneyland.