Ryan Lochte (Source: E! Online)
Ryan Lochte (Source: E! Online)

What Would Ryan Lochte Do? Sundays, 10pm on E!

The celebrity driven reality show is an interesting animal. This is because whereas most of the genre gives some degree of free will towards whom it designates as its’ heroes and its’ villains, the celebrity-centric shows (think Keeping Up with the Kardashians) are closer in nature to glorified publicity pieces. As a result, what you get is very little reality (or even “reality”) and more a glorified 30 minute infomercial that pushes whatever brand that celebrity is marketing (this brand doesn’t necessarily have to be positive, as a case in point see The Simple Life). This week we get to delve into the sub-genre a little more deeply, with the debuts of celebrity driven shows My Beautiful Crazy Life and last night’s What Would Ryan Lochte Do?.

What Would Ryan Lochte Do? (from here on out WWRLD?) follows Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte, his family, and his personal assistant Gene as he goes forth to pursue swimming, acting, endorsements, entrepreneurship, and the rigors of being famous for the sake of being famous. Additionally, the show shines a spotlight on the single Lochte’s search for love and family life, as his mother and siblings are all considered part of the show’s core cast.

We open on Lochte gushing about some shoes he designed. Within five seconds we learn how articulate our star really is, as he stumbles his way through an interview about the “Lochte Edge”, even being taken slightly aback at the question. However, we then get our first glimpse into the life of Lochte, with the bulk of the first half of the show devoted to partying and watching him awkwardly hit on females at his house and the club.

We’re then inroduced to the rest of Ryan’s family at a bowling event on a Monday afternoon. Ryan definitely takes a puckish streak, while his older sister Kristin plays mother hen and harasses him about his love life. This then leads us to Ryan preparing for a date with Megan, one of the girls he was awkwardly hitting on in the club. After discovering the girl is leaving for Los Angeles a week later (the show is set in Gainesville, known entirely as the home of the University of Florida), he decides that the long term picture is bleak and to not go further with the relationship (in a weird instance of a TV show telling instead of showing).

I want to hate this show so badly, but the truth is you can’t look away. Much like those early seasons of Jersey Shore, the show has a solid yen for peppering in large amounts of vulgarity (Ryan’s mouth gets pixelated out at least five times in our premiere) and a tendency for things to comically go bust (in this case Ryan’s football and bowling exploits). In this case, many of our interesting scenarios come as the end result of Ryan’s oversized ego, whether its making a bet and losing to younger brother Devon, his sister’s prodding him about taking girls’ out to a sushi place after Ryan makes the claim “all girls love sushi”, or worst yet, referring to himself in the third person in interviews.

Speaking of the interviews, I’m surprised to the degree that they let Ryan stumble his way through them. That being said, those awkward interviews are the highlight of the show, as Lochte’s responses to the questions being posed are often side-splittingly funny, if only due to a stunning lack of self-awareness. The editing does Ryan no favors either, as when he couldn’t recall what Megan looked like before her date, the scene flashed back to the night at the bar with a close-up of Megan’s chest, implying that was the only thing Lochte could recall.

The Final Verdict: As I mentioned above, WWLRD? has a vibe that feels not too far removed from Jersey Shore. A large part of this is due to the fact that Lochte’s frat boy nature, fairly large ego, and lack of discernible public speaking skills make him a dead ringer for The Situation. That being said, in between those moments of incredible ego you see a truly likable protagonist for a show of this ilk as he is generally good to the people around him. The editors in turn play this cartoonishness up, while playing the drama down, allowing for a brisk 30 minutes where there the stakes are low and you’re compelled to see how Lochte puts his foot in his mouth this time. If you’re into shows of that ilk, you’ll love What Would Ryan Lochte Do?, and it’s probably worth checking out otherwise just to get a peek into the mind of an Olympic Athlete whose show seems like the perfect mixture of every psuedo-reality show that MTV has released with a twenty-something male emphasis over the past decade.