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Even with WNY contestant, 'American Tarzan' isn't much to yell about

Sometimes I feel my job can be harder than swinging through jungles, climbing 100 feet vines and crawling through thick forests and hard terrain while being drenched by waterfalls.

It isn’t easy watching reality shows in which contestants have to do all those things in obstacle courses.

My general rule is to avoid reality programs like snakes, bees or mosquitoes in a jungle unless there is a Western New York angle.

I endured “American Grit” on Fox for weeks because Colden’s Mark Bouquin was in it to win it and emerged with $250,000 as a co-winner of the reality series.

I painfully watched all two hours of the popular NBC program “American Ninja Warrior” last week because a member of the Buffalo Bills staff, Dan Liburd, got his 15 seconds of fame.

Which brings me to the Discovery Channel series, “American Tarzan.” It premieres at 10 p.m. Wednesday on the cable channel.

It was my duty to watch a preview of the one-hour program because a Buffalonian, Jeremy Guarino, is one of seven challengers competing on a remote Caribbean Island named Dominica.

If you’re a fan of the small business owner with a superpower of “super agility,” be warned:  Guarino, of Build a Machine Fitness Center on Niagara Falls Boulevard, gets about as much screen time as Liburd in the premiere.

This isn’t to say Guarino doesn’t do well. I won’t spoil the suspense but Guarino does surprisingly well considering the minimal amount of screen time he gets.

The premiere actually focuses most of its time on a military mom and a strongman who are among the weakest performers but may have the best personal stories.

A single mom who has competed in pentathlons, Kim wants to prove something to her son. The strongman, Brandon, wants to prove that having a learning disability doesn’t define him.

The contestants have microphones on as they compete so we hear a lot of “I need Help! I need Help! I need Help!” from the single military mom as she races through a forest.

That is sort of how I feel when I look through program releases and discover there is a WNY contestant in a reality show.

Because I know it won’t be easy watching them.

But at least, I don’t have to deal with bees. The military mom’s cry for help comes as she is bitten.

Meanwhile, the strongman needs help climbing a huge vine. I half-expected him to give a “Tarzan” yell the third time he attempted it.

“Tarzan" isn’t mentioned much. At one point, one of the better contestants notes before the vine climb “it looks like something Tarzan might do.” That's about it.

The program might have been helped if the contestants’ expanded their vocabularies and said something remotely interesting or creative.

“Oh my gosh, I’ve got to keep going,” says Kim.

OMG, I felt the same way watching.

“I feel a little tired,” says Tim, a stay-at-home dad and runner.

Those words came about the time I became tired of watching and had one additional thought: “Where is Jeremy?”

The program does have some educational applications. We are updated on how many calories are burned by activity.

Which got me thinking: How many calories were burned watching “American Tarzan”? And how many brain cells were destroyed?

I expect I will be burning more calories watching Guarino continue to compete.

Presumably, we will hear his personal story down the road as he and the other contestants compete through the jungle, coast, mountains and canyons of the remote island. A Discovery release notes that he is helping raise his two teenage brothers, so that is expected to be part of his personal story.

We hear more from Guarino in the brief preview for the second episode than we hear from him in the pilot. At least I think it is him speaking. We don't actually see him.

“What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger,” says Jeremy.

Gee, that sounds like the anthem of a Buffalo sports fan.

“I like challenges,” adds Jeremy. “And I’m here to win.”

Even if Guarino were to win, he won’t walk away with any windfall. A Discovery spokesman said the winning prize is the honor of being named “American Tarzan.”

That doesn’t seem fair after dealing with jungles, waterfalls, canyons and mountains.

After all, even I got paid to watch it.


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