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So, 'Shaq Vs.' ... um, yeah, so, yeah

August 19, 2009 |  2:33 am


Premiere night, looking forward to this ABC show "Shaq Vs.," eager to see Shaquille O'Neal play football against Ben Roethlisberger on the debut night.

Hopes were high with viewers in our house, and there were some good things. Goodness, Shaq is just a hoot. He looks over and winks at a couple of people on the playing field. And Shaq certainly is a large man. He stood next to Roethlisberger in a press conference and Roethlisberger looked like a video-game quarterback, small enough to fit on a computer screen. But he's not. Shaq is just giant.

Shaq looked to be in great shape, no gut, lots of spring in his legs. Roethlisberger may have had the start of an extra chin and a general look of having enjoyed his off-season a lot.

To make up for Shaq not being a quarterback, he and his team (if you could call the no names a team) would start at the 20-yard line while the Roethlisberger offense had to score from the 40.

And watching Shaq do some football drills for Mike Mayock, an NFL scout, was interesting. Shaq worked a cone drill, and even Mayock wondered how a man of Shaq's size could do that.

But this hourlong show, frankly, dragged. I think the quarterback won 21-14, but my attention had long ago started wandering.

Shaq has picked competitors he respects, and it's clear Shaq is going to joke around and have fun, but he's not going to be mean or snarky or probably beat any of them, and in my reality-show watching I need, as the kids say, drama.

Oh and what's up with the so-called (no-name) announcers and the low-rent version of Erin Andrews as sideline reporter? Bad, bad idea. Need more Shaq, fewer no names.

Here's why most people watch reality television. To see a train wreck. Or at least an argument. I find myself at this moment watching my DVR version of "More to Love," a Fox show about a 330-pound man trying to find love among, well, big-butted women. There are lots of tears, lots of catty backstabbing, a massive prom date. Some of you highfalutin sports fans would say they'd never watch such a show, but it's tough not to sneak a peek at girls of a certain size going to a spa and snuggling with pudgy Luke, the former football player, who takes one of his dates to a restaurant where everyone must belly dance.

But back to Shaq. There wasn't much drama. The actual football was dull as dirt except for once when Shaq sneaked off the sidelines and intercepted a Roethlisberger pass and returned it for a touchdown. Except Shaq was on the sidelines, and you can't do that. But Shaq has good hands.

This was just a camera being trained on two jocks who had a goof on each other. Good fun, sure, but not great TV.

On "More to Love," weepy Melissa and witchy, cocky Lauren got sent home. More tears, some snark. Yes, that's what reality TV is.

If you're looking for an athlete-flavored reality show that's not as train-wreck-y as the T.O. show (Terrell Owens being, well, himself), I vote for Keyshawn Johnson's design show on A&E. First off, Keyshawn's got taste. Not mine, exactly, and sometimes not the clients', and that's the point. When Keyshawn tells a homeowner to dump the red dining-room wall and the homeowner says absolutely not but when time's up that dining room wall is a rich, deep purple, hey, that's tension.

It's the kind of show you can talk to your significant other about -- he picked that silver monstrosity of a vase and put it on the fireplace ledge? Yes, it looks like an urn for the dearly departed. Perfect reality-show fare. Plus, it has Keyshawn playing a part we'd never have thought of or expected. Again, good reality. Keyshawn's production company, 1925 Productions, is working on shows about how retired athletes deal with life and how high school football stars deal with recruiting pressure. Those sound promising.

I'll check out "Shaq Vs." again, I guess. Shaq just makes me smile, and next week he tries beach volleyball against Olympic gold medalists Kerri Walsh and Misty May-Treanor and, apparently, hits a few tennis balls against Serena Williams. Maybe the whole women-against-a-big man will offer more tension.

But, honestly, if I weren't writing this, I don't think I would have made it through the hour. And, ABC, make the fake commentators and plastic sideline girl go away.

Oh, and the guy who says Shaq stole his idea, don't worry. It's not that good. And it would be just awful if Shaq weren't the star.

-- Diane Pucin

Photo: Shaquille O'Neal. Photo credit: Donald Rager / ABC.