The History Channel certainly deserves credit for continuing to provide quality content exploring various topics throughout the ages. However, the question to any similar cable channel likely becomes this: how do you keep up and attract new audiences? The History Channel has done a commendable job in this regard, coming up with a series of new reality shows that can be at least tied in some regard to the remainder of their content. While the biggest success is the highly entertaining "Antique Roadshow" meets Vegas show "Pawn Stars", "Top Shot" is another good entry from the channel.
The series stars former "Survivor" star Colby Donaldson (who actually makes for a pretty good host, although it often does seem like he's trying to imitate Jeff Probst) in a competition show that sees various competitors trying to prove that they are the best marksman in a series of challenges based upon various historical events. As mentioned before, the History Channel's reality efforts do at least try to tie the concept into the various shows. In this case, the challenges are related to various historical events or themes.
Additionally, the series also makes the right call when it comes to contestants, choosing to keep with the same group and pare down the group each week towards a "Top Shot" $100,000 winner rather than having a different set of contestants every week. As a result, audiences can have a consistent player or players to root for to keep pulling them through the series rather than the jarring effect of new people each week. Additionally, while there's a little bit of drama between the players (they do live together throughout the proceedings), thankfully the series goes the route of focusing on the core element of the series rather than trying to manufacture drama.
While the core content may not be everyone's cup of tea, it's difficult to argue that the series doesn't generate tension, especially given the remarkably difficult (at least from the viewpoint of a casual observer) challenges. The precision involved with many of the challenges is impressive, such as one challenge where players have to stop a small lit fuse by shooting the wick ahead of the flame.
The challenges vary and include everything from trick shots to somewhat more standard fare, such as a relay race. If precision isn't required in a challenge, speed is. The challenges also change up the weapons frequently, using ones from various eras, all of which require different handling. Each week a couple of team members have to face off in an elimination challenge that sees one or more of them heading home. Overall, this is a well-made series that offers some historic tidbits of information, has a solid host in Donaldson (even if he is trying to be Jeff Probst), focuses on the concept rather than contestant drama and remains tense throughout.
VIDEO: The History Channel presents the series in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. The presentation remained crisp and clear through much of the program, although there were a few inconsistencies with a scene or two looking moderately softer at times. Flaws were limited to occasional traces of pixelation. Colors remained vivid and bright, with no saturation or smearing.
SOUND: Basic stereo soundtrack.
EXTRAS: Nearly an hour of deleted footage is offered, as well as exit interviews and bios. There's a lot of enjoyable bonus footage, but I think it highlights the show's solid editing, as while the material isn't bad, the series maintains a brisk pacing and sense of urgency thanks to fine editing work.
Final Thoughts: "Top Shot" is another fine attempt by the History Channel to branch into the reality format, yet not go too far away from the network's core. The DVD presentation offers very nice audio/video quality, along with a nice set of extras. Recommended for fans or those interested in the subject matter.