Man Vs. Beast 2 - 2/23/04
As promised, the Man Vs. Beast article, inspired by Fox’s fantastic new line of high-brow entertainment and friend Sarah’s insistence that I watch some of it.

Shows where midgets compete with animals. Where midgets compete with each other. Fox’s other programming (which may or may not involve midgets). The network has finally come to grips with its lowest-common-denominator nature. And I think this is great. There’s no point in being half-ass about it – if you’re going to cater to the masses, then break out the whole banquet. I’ve always liked Fox for bringing us shows like the Simpsons and Malcolm in the Middle, and now that they’ve admitted to their pandering side and are wholly living up to it… well, it’s a self-honestly that’s rare in television these days.

My roommate Sam first introduced me to Man Vs. Beast when the first one came out like a year ago. In this grotesque TV spectacle, a world eating champion challenged a grizzly bear to a hotdog eating contest, a weight-lifter fought an orangutan in the Tug-of-War, and 44 midgets battled an 8,000 pound elephant in an airplane-pulling race. In all cases Beast kicked Man’s ass.

This year’s result was slightly different, because one key factor common to all Man Vs. Beast challenges finally kicked in – that fact that the Beast typically has no idea what’s going on. I think it’s obvious that an adept animal is going to win out over a human in most physical competitions, but a lot of the time it doesn’t try, for the simple reason that it’s an animal. It doesn’t know it’s in a competition. That’s why greyhound races require fake rabbits and horse races require jockeys. And why that camel race was only a race once the camel decided it liked to chase midgets.

The show was absolutely ridiculous, and for that reason absolutely awesome. For one thing, they kept referring to all the animals as “The Beast”, as if the black lab retriever in the first event was the Creature From the Black Lagoon or something. I guess it was for the dramatic effect, so they could say things like “Just look at the intensity in the Beast’s eyes.” Or “The Beast has really been jumping well today.” They were also prone to dressing the animals up, especially the primates. Maybe it was for modesty reasons, or maybe because they realized the humor and product-placement value in monkeys wearing Adidas shorts. They liked to comment on this also, as in “The Beast seems to be having a little trouble, in that his pants are coming off.”

This year’s competitions (and let's all pray that Man Vs. Beast 3 is on the Fox horizon) featured an Olympic long jumper versus a dog in dock-jumping, a Samoan tree-climber versus a chimpanzee, and a relay team of 4 midgets racing against a camel. Gotta have the midgets. But personally my favorite event was a guy versus an orangutan to see who could hang onto a gymnastic bar the longest. First of all, the idea of trying to out-hang an orangutan is preposterous. It’s what orangutans do. It’s like trying to out-swim a dolphin, or out-vegetate a starfish. It’s stupid to even try, and yet they did, bringing in this Olympic-hopeful kid to see if he could hang in there longer than the monkey could. The argument was that despite being physically outmatched, the Man had one thing the Beast didn’t – heart and soul. Well the Beast can’t play the piano either, but that ain’t gonna stop it from clinging to that bar for like three days. And listen, Plato, this is Fox. Don’t get all philosophical on us about whether or not the Beast has a soul. That’s for the Lord to decide.

Shockingly, this was the one event that Man won outright. After about five minutes or so the orangutan started getting bored, peed itself, and then totally lost interest and climbed off the pole and into a nearby tree. Man won by disqualification. The monkey had no idea. God, if only he had thrown some feces at the camera. That would have been classic.

At some point we started wondering if the humans were getting paid for this. It couldn’t very much. And then the question of eligibility came up – is this kind of thing professional enough to get somebody disqualified from the Olympics? How funny would it be if that gymnast guy couldn’t go to Sydney because he got 200 bucks for competing on Man Vs. Beast 2?

Yes, Fox is great. Monkeys are great, and midgets are great. Put all three together and you’ve got yourself something special. I sum up this glowing review with a picture taken from the show… for anyone who knows them I believe that’s Dan Kuckel in front and Aaron Winters right behind him. Followed by some deformed midget and then Meatloaf.

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