'Bullrun' debuts on Spike TV Tuesday night; needs more driving action, fewer explosions

While wrestling superstar Bill Goldberg is showcased as the front man for Spike TV's new automotive reality series "Bullrun," he's not on camera enough to hold this fractured show together. If the producers had let the vehicles and driving be the stars, then the show might not be crying out for more of Goldberg's participation. Instead, "Bullrun" gets a flat tire coming out of first gear, at least in the opening episode.

The one-hour show debuts Tuesday, March 13, at 10:00 PM. It's based on the international auto rally of the same name, a cross country event designed for exotic cars which costs the entrants nearly $20,000 to participate. The Spike TV reality version runs between the Canadian and Mexican borders, covering 4,100 miles through nine states and 21 cities in 18 days. The competition pits 12 teams of ordinary, mostly likable characters in a variety of cool vehicles. About the only common denominator between the teams appears to be the inability to read a map or find road signs.

More of the review and information on the teams following the break

Drivers are given the destination and a suggested route at the beginning of each leg, but they're free to chart their own course. Each episode also features a challenge designed to test driver skills and/or their courage to bend a little sheetmetal. Winners of the challenges either move up in the driver standings or protect their postions. At the end of each episode, the team with the slowest overall time is told to hit the road and don't come back.

In the first episode, the teams are introduced. Thankfully, the producers did not follow the format of other reality shows and molest the audience with endless staged interviews to explain what's going on and remind us what we've already seen. There are a few staged interviews but they're quick and edited in at a brisk pace. I personally would like to know more about the vehicles and their setups. (See end of story for a rundown of the teams and a little bit about the cars.) That's where Goldberg could add so much more authority to the show. He's knowledgeable about the industry and exudes a genuine passion for cool cars. Why isn't he out there chatting it up with the participants? He can dish out some tough love, when needed. Instead, Goldberg acts like a hall monitor at detention class, barking rules and warnings. Even during the challenge, Goldberg is a figurehead, standing there with his hands in jacket and talking as if he's reading off a teleprompter. Goldberg should be in the drivers' faces as soon they finish the challenge. But I know why Goldberg is used mostly for score-keeping narration during the challenge. It's because the producers would rather blow something up than rely on human drama and spontaneity.

According to the press notes, the show ignited 500 small explosions and 100 large explosions during the challenges. One concussion blew out the windows of a restaurant 50 yards away. About 1,000 gallons of gasoline and 2,000 gallons of propane were used for all the explosions and flame throwing. Whoopee!

You know the show is in trouble when explosions are promoted so prominently. Trust me, there is absolutely no need for the big bangs in this show. I know I'm not alone when I say that explosions are great in person, okay on the big screen but lousy on TV. They're like fireworks. Who wants to watch fireworks on TV? No one. They only stir emotion when you're there in person, witnessing the blazing glory. So, all that the explosions accomplished during the challenge was to get in the way of trying to follow the action through the Gatling-gun editing. Why is every film editor trying to make a heavy-metal rock video during an hour TV show?

"Bullrun" does have promise. The teams have to make their own repairs, and that could mean using feminine-hygiene products to stop a radiator leak. The teams appear to be rather approachable from all angles. That's one of the great benefits of getting car enthusiasts together; the vehicles are usually the therapy for personality conflicts. But I'm sure there will be producer-driven hostility that will surface in future episodes. According the press notes, even Goldberg throws a hissy fit and trashes his trailer. Must have been a slow day.

Aside from the absolutely horrible and overbearing guitar soundtrack during the challenge, the only annoying production element is the lack of airtime for the rally map. It doesn't come up often or long enough to follow your favorite team's progress. Here's when I'd like to hear Goldberg's narration. What's going on? Who's off course? Who had to stop for fuel? What's the clock reading? Help the audience get into the rally. Then rag on the teams when they hit the pit area. Where's Simon Cowell when you really need him? Instead, the hour is filled out with the usual array of sophomoric antics, bad singing, road kill counts and the gold standard of any desperate reality show, a fart. What's next? Girls kissing, wet T-shirt contests and "show us your boobs" signs?

I'll give "Bullrun" a couple more chances. The first challenge was clever and rather difficult. I only wish a different editor and director were in charge so I could follow the driving action instead of being blinded by explosions that are washed out on a TV screen. I look forward to other challenges and getting to know more about the teams and their vehicles. I don't know if the show will deteriorate into a boring screamfest between the contestants, but I do know that getting Goldberg out of his trailer more often and focusing on the driving will get this rally on the right road again.

Following are capsules of the teams, as written by the show's marketing staff. Again, "Bullrun" debuts at 10:00 PM Tuesday night. Check it out, come back and leave a comment.

Detroit Auto Show: Bill Goldberg will host new auto reality show

Team Bios

Michael Musto and Jim Acierno -- 1968 Dodge Charger
These tough guys met and became friends over twenty years ago, while growing up in Long Island. The two have always bonded over similar interests, beginning with watching the girls' track team "practice" in high school. Their similar interests evolved to living and breathing cars. Jim's father was an avid collector and die-hard grease monkey who upgraded Jim's favorite car, a 1987 Buick Grand National, to achieve racecar speeds. Jim has never bought anything but traditional muscle cars since. Mike's obsession with cars began when he was 10-years-old and saw Steve McQueen's car in "Bullit," after which he made it his goal to have a Dodge Charger – a goal he achieved in 2003, when he purchased a bare-bones 1968 Charger. To this date he has invested more than $20,000 into it, upgrading the classic with a 6-speed transmission, state-of-the-art suspension system, brand new interior and 4-point seat harness. The fierce competitors have even custom built parts to make it truly unique and the car to beat in this rally. Though Jim has moved to Dunedin, FL and Michael resides in Queens, NY, the two maintain a tight bond.

Jesus "J.R." Reyes and Chuck Aguilar – 2001 BMW M3
These Chi-town natives became friends and racing buddies ten years ago, where they met while playing on an inner city Latino basketball team. They still play basketball together every Wednesday and have a street race afterwards. Since he was old enough to have a license, J.R. has owned and modified six cars, ranging from a '95 eclipse to a 2000 Civic before acquiring his pride and joy BMW. He has since taken Chuck under his wing, teaching him the tricks of the street racing trade and showing him special techniques, including "launching," which is making a car take off with maximum acceleration from a stand-still. J.R. and Chuck still live in Chicago and currently work together at an online college, the Colorado Technical University, where they were both recently promoted. They have modified J.R.'s BMW M3 for optimal performance for this rally – adding a 333hp engine, a lot of torque, a full cat-back exhaust system, an AFE cold air intake, a front spoiler to help with the down force and brake ducts to help cool the brakes.

Cesar Ceja and Ralph Diza – 1957 Chevy 210
Cesar and Ralph met in high school, where they founded the "Devastating Posse," a dance crew that grew to more than 250 members by the time they graduated, when they were voted "Best Dancer" and "Biggest Party Animal," respectively. A huge animal lover, Ralph went through the L.A. Zoo Association's Docent Program, where he was the first Latino class valedictorian in 26 years. After a decade of working with animals, he is now a marketer and distributor for Top Dog, a company that makes leather pet accessories. He also co-founded a pet-friendly lounge called SkyBark in downtown L.A. Cesar and Ralph love restoring classic cars because they can get hands-on and add the Latin flavor to American classics. Cesar loves the way his 1957 Chevy 210 looks, but is tirelessly seeking perfection, admitting there is always more work to do on it. Both reside in East Los Angeles and in their spare time, the likeable friends ride their Harleys and go camping.

Jason Wallace and Jake Keeton – 2004 Ford Texas Ranch F150 Lariat
Jason and Jeff met during Spring Break '01 in Port Aransas, TX and have been inseparable ever since. Jason describes Jeff as his "little brother," a claim Jeff backs up, as Jason embodies everything he wants to be. Jason, born and raised in Universal City, TX, was bred to be a fireman. His father was Fire Chief at the local station where Jason remembers the thrill of following fires with his mother - Gatorade and doughnuts in hand- to see his father in action. For Jake, the passion for the Fire Academy was acquired through Jason. Jeff is finishing up his work at the Fire Academy, currently working delivery routes at his mother's flower shop until he graduates, where he plans to become an Arson Investigator. Their ride, the 2003 Ford Texas Ranch F150 Lariat was purchased on a whim one night by Jason. While speeding along the freeway one night, he noticed the car sitting in a lot and upon inspecting the leather interior, considered it fate when he recognized it as the same leather as his couch. Jason is proudest of his Superchip Power Programmer, which assists him in anticipating frame stresses for all future work. Jason and Jake currently live in Universal City, TX and San Antonio, TX, respectively.

Dimitra Dorbacopoulos and Andrea Abenoza – 2007 Scion TC
These gorgeous sisters were born and raised in LA, where their father instilled in them a love of cars, racing and most importantly, victory. When each was old enough to drive, their father sent them to racing school, where they passed the courses with flying colors and earned their racing permits. Andrea, whom Dimi nicknamed "The General" because she is overprotective of her baby sister, is an international model who has been traveling the world for over a decade. She is currently with Next Model Management and Elite Model Management. Dimi is a racer girl at heart, usually entering races driving a 1959 Austin Healy Sprite with a 1,300 cc motor equipped with all the required racing modifications. She has been in seven races and is now sponsored by Elton John's drummer, Nigel Olson. These L.A. girls love to party, travel and go horseback riding.

Phillip Durant and Rich Brannon – 1965 Mustang Fastback
Childhood friends, Philip and Rich, will be manning the 1965 Mustang Fastback. Philip describes Rich as the "mechanical brains" and himself as the "fast driving trash talker." These men are your typical country boys, with interests that include fast cars and women. In 1998, at the tender age of 20, Rich opened the only combo auto parts and service center facility in the tri-state area with his father. Philip is a 3rd Generation Army National Guard and is currently a training NCO, Staff Sergeant. Despite all their similarities, Philip has always been loyal to Ford Mustangs, while Rich prefers Mopars. Following a race in 1995, in which Philip defeated Rich, Rich immediately requested his father's assistance in pulling out and replacing the old engine with a 440hp engine. To this day, they continue to race each other in Dothan, AL at the local drag strip where Rich rarely tastes failure.

Sean "Dirty Rice" Yarbrough and Paris Jackson – 1996 Honda Civic
Sean and Paris have built a strong friendship on their common love of music and racing. Three years ago, Paris, who owns his own online magazine, approached Sean to do the soundtrack for a documentary on street racing he was creating. Sean goes by "Dirty Rice," a homage to his Asian and African-American heritages. A well-known underground rap and hip-hop artist, Dirty Rice has released over five albums. Paris has been competitive all his life, participating in a variety of sports and activities including, soccer, swimming, baseball, canoeing, rock climbing, spelunking and white water rafting. He achieved the level of Eagle Scout and has won several martial arts tournaments in the art of Kajukempo. The notorious Oakland, CA based street racing duo will be driving a 1996 Honda Civic that Dirty Rice spent hundreds of hours working on, adding plenty of custom parts and modifications to make it fast and light.

Brian Newberry and Danny Klein – 2007 Lotus Exige S
Brian and Danny hit it off immediately following their first encounter, when Brian applied for a job at the advertising agency Danny's brother worked at. Each man shared the desire to live outside the box. Their company, Plastic Cash, a reloadable debit card geared towards today's youth, is the only youth branded MasterCard in the world. Brian "Crazy Baby" Newberry, a nickname given to him because of his rebellious nature as a child, has been racing cards with his father since the age of 12. Brian's father, a corporate bigwig in Long Beach, CA helped fuel his passion for racing and his intense hatred towards losing. Danny was born in Los Angeles to parents that infused creativity into their son. Danny's father owned an advertising agency, while his mother was a sitcom writer. His original intention in life was to be a musician, but upon entering UCLA, realized he was more interested in becoming a lawyer. Brian and Danny still reside in LA and will be driving the 2007 Lotus Exige S.

Mike Alsop and Morgan Alsop – 2002 Pontiac Trans Am
The 2002 Pontiac Trans Am car features a father and daughter team from Lafayette, IN, Mike and Morgan Alsop. Morgan is the oldest of three daughters, but has the strongest bond with her father. Mike is the general manager of Raisor Auto Group which sells motorcycles, snowmobiles, jet skis and anything else built for speed. Daddy's girl Morgan, also shares her fathers interest in speed. Last year, she was clocked going 140mph by the local police. Their current arguments center around Morgan's desire to own a motorcycle – a plea Mike has no intention of ever giving into. Morgan and Mike both view "Bullrun" as their chance to spend quality time together. Morgan will soon graduate from college and knows that she will have less time to spend with her father. Their car, the 2002 Pontiac Trans is a graduation gift to Morgan from her father.

John Eltringham and Jeff Marshall -- 2003 Lamborghini Murcielago
John and Jeff are "in the money," with a combined net worth of over $4.5 million. John is lawyer based in Woodinville, WA who prides himself on his talent for getting people out of very high speed speeding tickets. Jeff, based in Newark, CA, made his first million by the age of 24 and is the founder of Platinum Group Real Properties, Inc. The two met `at a birthday party in 2005 and bonded over their love of expensive cars – between the two of them, they have owned and modified over 60 cars. They currently have plans to start a new company together next year that obtains land, builds homes on it and then sells it. The early villains in this competition, Jeff and John are extremely confident that their beloved and enhanced Lamborghini - redone with 648hp, new K&N air filters, a redone top end, polished intake, larger injectors, straight exhaust sans a muffler, remapped computer and a rare 40th Anniversary Verde Artemis paint job – will leave the other teams in the dust.

Andre Cerqueira and Richard Cerqueira – 1975 Hurst/Oldsmobile
The Cerquiera brothers grew up in Flushing, Queens and still live there. While growing up, Andre and Richard were separated by school. Richard, who is a model and emcee, attended a more academically driven Catholic school, while Andre, now a loan officer, went to a school for the bad boys. From a very young age, Andre and Richard's father, who is from Portugal, instilled very old-fashioned European values into them. Their father was also able to fix anything and taught them how to use tools and work with their hands from a very young age. The brothers have nearly exhausted that skill in working with their car. The brothers not only work on Andre's 1975 Hurst/Oldsmobile every single day, but look up new things to add to the car. In their spare time, the brothers enjoy skiing and martial arts.

Eric Hinckley and Jeremy Smith – 1997 Nissan 240SX
These two gear heads met in 1999 while on a double date with two sisters and are now best friends, brothers-in-law and co-owners of 9 Second Racing. Their company is Colorado's premiere one-stop performance shop where they customize everything from the sport compacts to muscle cars. They will be driving the 1997 Nissan 240SX, which boasts a little history along with it. It is the first car to have the stock 4 cylinder engine removed and have a Nissan Skyline in-line six cylinder twin turbo engine installed. Their car is recognized all across the world as it has been featured in several enthusiast magazines worldwide. Eric and Jeremy have enjoyed a successful 2006 in Denver, CO. They tuned and modified a Ford GT that one of their clients drove to become the winner of the Gumball in 2006 and a Subaru STI for a different client that won the 2006 AKA rally. Both Eric and Jeremy are University of Colorado alums, Eric in '02 with an electrical Engineering degree and Jeremy in '01 with a degree in Communications.

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