“Shaq vs” Ben …. Two Thumbs Up!

I’m no TV critic but I know what I like and what I don’t … and I’m not a big fan of reality TV. Now that might sound strange from a guy who works for a TV station affiliated with a network which has built its audience recently on “The Bachelor”, “Dancing with the Stars” and “Dating in the Dark”. However, I am also a TV viewer and long for the days of a good drama or a well-written comedy.

That’s why I didn’t have high hopes for “Shaq Vs”. The premise is NBA star Shaquille O’Neal taking on some of the greatest athletes in the world in their chosen sport. Sounds like a six-week TV experiment and I didn’t think it would last past the first episode, but they threw a wrench in my prediction: Ben Roethlisberger.

Now I will admit I do see the world through black and gold colored glasses, but I live in Pittsburgh and will always look at shows on the city with a more critical eye. Still, I didn’t know if the “Pittsburgh Connection” would keep me glued.

Then came the surprise. Incredible visuals of our city from new and different angles. I have seen shots from Mount Washington, but not like these. They were quick, but they were well done and breath-taking. Then, Shaq went to Ben’s house. As far as I know, there has been no video inside Ben’s pad. It was truly interesting to look inside Ben’s place. He’s a multi-millionaire who lives like most bachelors: the trophies on the mantle; six different kids of furniture in one room; the black leather recliner.

The show took Shaq, and we as viewers, never get to see. Even the media is not allowed in the Steelers training room but the show took us there. We often don’t get a chance to see Ben so relaxed and at ease but we did in this show.

Then, there was the competition between Ben & Shaq. What should have been a rout turned out a close contest which Ben won with a game-winning drive in the closing seconds … just like Super Bowl XLIII.

Will it be a ratings hit nationally? Probably not, but it was certainly a night for Pittsburgh to be proud … and a rare night for me when I found reality TV to be fun.

p.s. A little insight:If you did watch tonight’s show, you may have seen the pre-game press conference and meeting with the media about 17 minutes in. If you remember, Ben was wearing a brown pinstripe suit. It was the same suit he wore when he made his brief statement about the civil suit filed against him in Lake Tahoe. Amazing. The same day he was under the microscope, he shot a more playful segment with Shaq. Just a little insight for you.

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