Sunday, August 17, 2008

Is It Me? Or was this Chronicle really “Lost”?

TV - Reality - The Gist

When the curtains rolled by around 11pm Saturday 19th July to unveil the new season of Gulder Ultimate Search 5, many a people were glued to their seats as Nigerian Breweries PLC began yet another legend in the quest for money, a car, fame, fortune and failure for 10 youthful representatives of the Nigerian population. They were originally 10 called The Heroes of the Order that set foot on the Agwu Hills in Enugu State to recover the Lost Chronicle and exactly a week ago, the life of the last one standing, Michael Nwachukwu changed for good.

GUS is mostly about characters and the individuality of this year’s contestants was not in doubt. However it is no big secret that the physical rigours of the GUS series have been designed to screen out the weaker sex so that an Ultimate Man will always emerge just as in the past 4 editions. This year, there was a conscious effort among the females to turn this around even though one couldn’t help but wonder how their constant bickering was going to help them achieve this purpose. And of course, there’s always a quiet, brilliant contestant in this case, 24 year old graduate Abiola Olanrewaju who many thought would remain as the last girl standing.

The eviction drama in GUS 5 kicked off with one member each of different sexes been given the boot. First to take the curtain call was 22-year-old Law student, Rita Uloko whose departure was in connection to the physiological damage she suffered to her knee. It would be recalled that the issue of Rita’s knee had cropped up when she first suffered a fall during the drills which she soundly dismissed by jogging on the spot to prove her point. But the body does not lie. Another fall again on the same knee and Rita was history.

As if to dispel the underlying notion that GUS lauds only the display of brute strength over mental abilities, Brian Mokelu failed to solve his puzzle and thus forfeited not only his role as totem bearer but his chance for the big prize. In the words of host, Bob-Manuel Udoukwu, the 25-year-old UNN Geography student’s “relevance in the camp had hereby been terminated.”

Next to leave were Abiola and 25-year-old Fred Dutman for failing at the spear throwing contest but the fact that the other contestants scored points at all was nothing short of a miracle given the warped nature of the spears’ aerodynamics. Aspiring model and Rivers State indigene, Abigail Opuogulya aged 22 and smart but conceited JJ Okop were next to get the boot when their team came last as Abigail failed in yet another physical task.

The other males in this year’s edition, though not lacking in macho looks all seemed to lack the necessary grey matter needed to solve riddles apart from the seemingly haughty JJ who, true to history, would never have been the Ultimate Man. Into the mix were the fishwives Ruphina “Phina” Ohakwe (who at 27/28 years old was the oldest Hero and mother figure in the camp) and Abigail who were so intent in carving a niche in the viewers’ minds with their quarrelsomeness.

With the camp reduced to four the female cause was left to Phina and yet another quiet female, Linda Iweka, UNIABUJA Computer Science student aged 21, who never seemed too sure of herself to take charge at any time. There was a bit of melodrama when both females came last on yet another physical/mental task and everyone thought they would be evicted but this was not to be as both were thrown a lifeline. The dream for an Ultimate Woman was however further shattered when another set of physical removed first Phina and then Linda leaving Marketing graduate Frank Mohammed and 26-year-old “Big Mike” as he was fondly called to jostle for the crown. Of course, by now the outcome of GUS 5 is well known.

GUS 5 didn’t fail in its tradition as one of the (if not the most) popular reality TV shows but Despite its cult status, GUS Season 5 fell seriously short when compared to previous seasons 1 and 2 and sadly followed in the tradition of GUS 3 and 4 by failing to live up to its billings. There just wasn’t enough flash to keep the viewers’ attentions.

Take the characters for example. Maybe it was the editors’ fault but GUS 5 looked more robotic and less realistic. There was no bonding, no romance, no drama, hardly any comedy or friction between characters (apart from Phina and Abigail) and all the crucial socio-dramatic elements that go to make up a popular TV reality show. But then maybe it was the fault of the screening panel who seemed to focus mainly on contestants with materialistic tendencies instead of diverse, eccentric and radical personalities. Hardly a tear was shed when any contestant got evicted unlike in the previous editions as the remaining ones saw only each eviction as a chance for them to lay hands on the cash prize and the SUV.

The choice of host also had a few question marks. A reality TV show usually requires the services of a vibrant, versatile, convincing and witty host but disappointingly, host Bob-Manuel Udokwu has still remained the same Bob-Manuel of Season 4: The Golden Age with no improvement whatsoever. At least one can be grateful that he is far more bearable than the “Tin-Tin” host of Season 3 at NIFOR. Jungle Film Works (the TV Production company) wowed us with their cinematic prowess in previous years but like Bob-Manuel they also decided not to tinker with their magic formula this year showing exactly the same cinematic capabilities they displayed before.

The scenic Agwu Hills location of this year’s Search sadly excluded marine activities from the tasks which was a shame actually giving that the ability to swim was one of the criteria for choosing contestants. The tasks themselves while solely lacking in creativity, focused so much on the physical and less on the mental aspects thus successfully eliminating females from the Ultimate prize which, if one really thinks about the way Michael discovered it, actually had nothing to do with these much touted physical attributes. Any female doesn’t even need to go through the National Youth Service scheme to know they could overcome the obstacles en route to the prize but maybe at a slower pace.

And on a final note, there’s the issue of the Legend itself. There’s something about that Chronicle story that accompanied the Search that definitely didn’t stand up to the test of time and maybe therein lies the problem. The myths that surround every season of GUS are beginning to sound more absurd nowadays and even the tiniest tot in your house can see through the charade. The sci-fi tale of the emergence of a despot in the future who radically altered the Star Wars-like landscape and banned all forms of intellectual improvement (a la the movie “Equilibrium” and several others), leading to the Heroes of the Order sending the Lost Chronicle back in time to be discovered in Enugu was laughably ridiculous. The animated cartoon than came with the story was even more so.

In case there is a GUS 6 planned in the future (which is doubtable given that all the elements for brewing a good beer - which the Ultimate Search is about anyway - have been found) it would be great if NB Plc as well as Insight Communications as well as Jungle Filmworks put heads together to review the flaws apparent in GUS 5. The Scriptwriter, Director, art directors task builders/grips and film editors need to do more work to make the storyline more interesting the and the tasks more diversified while the narrator, host, contestants and even we the viewers need to put in more spirit in GUS.

I would have gladly helped too, but no one asked me to anyway…

PS: For more info on the past editions of the Gulder Ultimate Search such as previous winners, rewards, tasks and locations, click this link. To find out about the crew members a.k.a. the “Men” behind the Scenes click here. All referenced materials are copyright of NB Plc and related Agencies.

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