Siberia – Pilot Review

Rating:  5.5

So did anyone think it was real?  I didn’t have that opportunity since I’d read NBC’s announcement about the series, where it was made clear that there was some serious fiction, even some of the supernatural sort,  going on here.

Knowing that Siberia would be scripted reality (which is not uncommon, I dare say),  I was curious how the pilot would be treated.  Would it be about the show and contestants, like the film “The Hunger Games,” or would it be like actually watching “The Hunger Games” production itself?  Turns out it was the latter, and it can best be summed up by calling it  “The Blair Witch Project: Survivor Edition.”

Let’s back up here… The pilot opens with a shot of the Siberian mountains, the blindfolded cast gets out of a helicopter and the host explains the game to them.  Just like a ‘real’ reality show, I laugh at how the contestants are told the rules as if they have no idea what they are doing in Siberia.   But there is a twist – though they’ve packed clothes and equipment – they are not allowed to take any of it with them.

Is this thing real?  I think many viewers may still think so at this point.

Entertainment value is entertainment value regardless of what the creators intended, which is why B movies can be loved so dearly.   Maybe it actually was intentional, but I loved how this scripted reality show played with the overused ‘reality competition format’ that became super popular with CBS’ ‘Survivor’ and ‘Amazing Race.’  I think they did an excellent job at creating and casting the typical reality competition archetypes, and since the series is ‘fully scripted,’ they could exaggerate those characters by making the jerk a ‘super jerk’, the nerd’s glasses ‘extra thick,’ and the women a little more attractive, like you’d see on a, well, scripted series.

Maybe it was that they are trying to push the boundaries of what viewers can actually believe, but this was what I enjoyed the most.

Ok, back to the actual show.  The contest?  Boring & goofy.  But again, it’s the people that are most interesting on reality shows anyway.

What got the guy at the end?  That was the ultimate Blair Witch Survival moment.  I’m not really hooked.  It seems there’s evil lurking out there, no one is safe, things are not what they seem, what else, oh, of course, there is a mutated 3 legged frog.  The spook factor is there, and it’s kind of fun, but like the competition, it’s not going to be enough to keep me watching.  Whether or not the competition continues is really irrelevant; it seems that the crew will just keep shooting ‘whatever happens.’  I see this getting deeper into raw-footage-spook territory;  lots of shaky camera work and running while screaming.

So what I dig is how “Sibera” brings to light the silliness of the reality format.   They handled the structure, character reaction, and even the music quite well.  It was entertaining but that can’t last for an entire season.

I love that NBC took a chance on this scripted reality experiment, and it’s not a total loss.  Summer is the perfect time to air a fun, shorter season ‘event’ like this.  If they just had (or if one develops) a really engaging ‘big story,’ that is, what exactly is going on in the woods, how it will affect them, and how they will somehow overcome it, then “Siberia” itself might just survive.





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