‘TKO’ not actually a total knockout, but it delivers some laughs

The Art of Nerding Out

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You know what this summer has been missing so far? An obstacle course competition where people get hit in the head with flying objects and fall spectacularly into cushion-filled pits. Fortunately, CBS has stepped into the breach to offer up “TKO: Total Knock Out.”

“TKO” is a mix of “American Ninja Warrior,” “American Gladiators” and a Kevin Hart stand-up routine. Contestants attempt to run through a series of obstacles that require balance and athletic ability. The course is divvied up into four battle zones, each including a battle station manned by opponents who launch projectiles in hopes knocking their foes down.

While the action plays out, Hart gives play by play, firing one-liners and losing his mind whenever a contestant falls. For instance, he quips that the spiked balls in one zone will “drop in on you like a mother-in-law.”

Hart also riffs on the quirks and personality traits of the contestants, like busting out a dance to poke fun at one contestant. And this is a competition, so of course, the contestants sling all kinds of trash talk at their opponents. Whoever can run this gauntlet of physical challenges and verbal warfare gets a $50,000 prize and a chance to run in the finale for a shot at $100,000. Sounds like a recipe for fun, yes?

It does, but “TKO” has plenty of problems. First of all, it doesn’t do anything it’s trying to do as well as other shows have. It lacks the drama or displays of athletic prowess of “American Ninja Warrior” or “Ultimate Beastmaster.” It’s also nowhere close to as funny as something like “Most Extreme Elimination Challenge.” If you haven’t heard of that show, look it up on YouTube. You can thank me later.

As for Hart, he does get some laughs here and there, but he swings and misses a lot. More laughs come from watching contestants wipe out or talk smack to one another. If you’re looking for laughs from Hart, you’d be better served searching out one of his stand-up shows or movies.

Although “TKO” doesn’t excel in any one area, all the elements together add up to a good time. It’s easy to pick a favorite contestant to get behind and root for. The competition is fun and can lead to some laughs. And watching people get hit on the head is time-tested comedic gold. Sadistic, but still funny.

“TKO: Total Knock Out” will remind you of other, better shows. But if you give it a chance to win you over, you’ll may find yourself laughing and having a good time. And good times are what summer is all about.

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