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A Cannonball of Fun!

Stop. What are you doing with your life?

I ask because if the answer is anything but "waiting anxiously for the next airing of Cannonball Run 2001," you're just wasting your time. What fulfillment do you expect to get out of that job, baby, or Tae-Bo tape that you can't get from USA's latest challenger to the title of Stupidest Reality Show Ever?

There have been many movies made into television series. And for every M*A*S*H or Buffy the Vampire Slayer, there are a thousand Casablancas and Ferris Buellers. And there's no question which category Cannonball falls into. For one thing, it's probably impossible to tarnish the memory of the original movie, given that A) It was 20 years ago, B) It was a pretty silly movie anyway, and C) There were already two sequels, which weren't any too good themselves. Now that I think of it, I can't imagine why Speed Zone wasn't a better movie, since I'd normally like a movie that starred Matt Frewer, John Candy, and Joe Flaherty. I can only assume that Shari Belafonte and the Smothers Brothers dragged down the average.

You might not think that dissertations on the casting of Speed Zone are strictly relevant to the issue at hand, but it's really very important. Because the only place where Cannonball: the Dumb Reality Show falls down in its task of replicating the classic Burt Reynolds movie is in the area of gratuitous cameos. As we all know, the only purpose for the original Cannonball Run was so moviegoers could be dazzled by a single movie screen somehow containing the raw star power of Dom DeLuise, Dean Martin, and Bert Convy. And I'm afraid that here the most famous racing team, "The Castaways," combines Survivor's Susan Hawk, Survivor 2's Jeff Varner, and Temptation Island's Kaya... something. And they're racing in a souped-up '70s hearse. Admit it, even though you're recoiling in horror, you can't wait to see them in action.

Other teams include "Hog Wild" (two guys from Kentucky, which in TV shorthand means they're "hicks," teamed with a girl who wants to be either a chef or an actress, racing in a "hopped up" monster truck), "Forbidden Fruit" (a '61 pink Cadillac being driven by two Playmates and a seminary student), "Hip Hop and Pop" (a Ugandan rapper, a Los Angeles rapper, and a firefighter from Asheville, North Carolina driving a purple Impala low rider), "Third Wheel" (a guy, his girlfriend, and his ex-girlfriend, piloting a '69 Pontiac GTO), and "Alpha Gamma Grandma" (two frat boys and a grandmother).

The theory behind this team list appears to be that whenever one played-out sitcom premise gets tired, the producers can just switch to a different car. Are the Temptation Island-style hijinks of "Third Wheel" getting old? How about some racially-charged hilarity, courtesy of "Hip Hop and Pop?" And perhaps a side order of Generation Gap misunderstandings with "Alpha Gamma Grandma?" Excellent.

I can't get this far without mentioning the hosts. As hard as it may be to believe, Burt Reynolds and Don DeLuise have better things to do than appear on a chintzy USA Network show. Instead, our hosts are Krista Herman, who apparently once hosted some sort of kids' game show in Canada; Lee Reherman, who used to be Hawk on American Gladiators; and Bill Weir, who apparently isn't related to the guy from the Grateful Dead.

The show isn't just racing, of course, because today's television viewers are far too sophisticated to accept that as a regular show. There are also regular challenges, called "Road Detours," where the contestants either have to set aside their groovy customized rides and use a different mode of transportation (like demolition derby cars!) or else have to engage in some non-transportation-related challenge, like a steak-eating contest. This might be a good time to point out that if you're worried about a television show's bad influence on society, you should watch something more culturally uplifting. Like South Park. There will also be "Morality Challenges", where we see whether racers stop to pick up stranded motorists. We'll also see if anyone is so stranded that they're willing to accept a ride from three reality-show rejects in a brightly-painted Hearse.

Think that's it? Don't be naive. Before any episode can even get started, the racers have to finish a "Jumpstart Challenge," like finding their keys. Hey! It looks like my next late-to-work excuse is that I didn't do well at my "Jumpstart Challenge."

And in the occasional spurts of racing, the racers are allowed to sabotage each other through the sort of wacky prank that made the original movie such a hoot.

Let's see, I think that's about it. Oh, the cars are racing from New York City to Los Angeles. Did I mention that?


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