The Rock Continues His Winning Streak With “The Hero”

The wrestling star turned actor strikes again with a compelling competition reality show.

The Hero

The Rock is magnetic. Out of context that makes no sense, but watch 2011’s “Fast Five” or any of the four motion pictures that Dwayne Johnson has stared in this year and you know it’s undeniable. Big grin, tree trunks for arms, a larger than life personality and a penchant for dropping both hilarious and aggressive quotable like they’re peanut shells at a baseball game — from a strictly entertainment standpoint, I can’t get enough of The Rock. Which is why a buddy of mine and I embarked on what we called The Rock Challenge: See all of his 2013 movies in theaters and bask in the awe-inspiring Boots to Ass-ness of The Great One.

“Snitch” was ok, a dramatic turn for The Rock who plays a father infiltrating a drug ring in order to free his wrongfully imprisoned son. The biggest take away was the line “I’ve been rolling the dice my whole life,” which, while still cheesy, becomes part of The Rock’s historic canon of one-liners as soon as he speaks it.

“G.I. Joe: Retaliation” was better, putting Rocky more in his element as a massive gun-wielding soldier. There are plot holes and overall weak aspects of the film, but you have to remember what The Rock Challenge is all about: action and humor. Both are here, though the latter is more prevalent in “Pain & Gain,” Michael Bay’s crime flick about a bunch of body builders turned kidnappers. Rock plays the largest of the muscle freaks, but with a dimension nowhere else in the film. He’s scary and sweet and religious and prone to benders. As he put it on Twitter “In #PainAndGain Im a seeking Jesus, coke fueled, body building ex-con maniac.. the fun I had.” He steals the show.

And finally, there was “Fast & Furious 6,” the cherry on top, the one we had been waiting for most, the fast-cars-and-over-the-top-action franchise that not surprisingly picked up speed when it added Rock to the cast in 2011. He plays Luke Hobbs, a CIA agent so physically enormous that he could perceivably squash heads with his index and thumb. Scenes without him are the least dynamic.

That came out on May 24. That’s four movies in five months, plus dude was the headliner at April’s Wrestlemania, where he tore his abdominal muscle fighting John Cena. What I’m trying to say is: Rock is insanely busy, insanely charismatic, insanely jacked, and insanely talented. See, we thought The Rock Challenge was over when we walked out of “Fast & Furious 6,” but The People’s Champ had more in store.

Promos for “The Hero” were running for months before its June 6 air date but it was difficult to get a hold of what the reality show was about. It was a Rock produced and hosted challenge show, that was about all that could be surmised from the parking garage looking teasers. I missed the first episode due to a scheduling conflict and returned to my roommates raving about it. I fired up the DVR first thing the next morning.

“The Hero” places nine men and women from all walks of life (from surgeon to cheerleader) in South America, where they travel the continent competing together in physical challenges. The group is whittled down to one by episodes end, and the lone “hero” embarks on a solo mission with the option to pocket his or her winnings or add it to a group pot that will go to the series winner. Along the way, Rock offers commentary and temptation; he bribes contestants with money to steer the group away from the challenge goal.

It’s a show about endurance, trust, courage, and hardship, and it’s freaking great. But how could it not be? It’s a Rock vehicle after all, which means it’s a tank. With Rock at the helm — shooting the camera looks, propositioning contestants, cracking jokes, offering motivation — it’s fool proof programming. The show opened to 1.5 million viewers, but that decimal point should be further to the right.

It’s captivating television and consider this the flashing endorsement telling you you’re missing out. Episode three airs tonight on TNT at 8 p.m. EST and my apartment will be glued to the screen (we use a projector, so it’s technically a wall). It doesn’t interfere with Game 7 of the NBA Finals, so before we shout about hot handed Danny Green 3’s or Lebron James face melting dunks, we will be cheering on Lydia, Rachel, Athena, Darnell, Marty, Patty, Dave, Shaun, and Charles. We will be cracking up at The Rock’s facial expressions and anxiously waiting to see who turns selfish and what the fallout will be over it.

I’m beginning to realize that The Rock Challenge may never be over, but I’m perfectly fine with that. He’s a movie star and an athlete and one hell of an entertainer, and for that, I will remain fastened in the palm of his colossal hand.

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