Sci Fi Channel’s pulse-pounding new reality game show Chase gives contestants (or runners) 60 minutes to navigate a self-enclosed real-world game board — in the case of the pilot episode, the Port of Los Angeles — while completing tasks and avoiding relentless, robotic “hunters” whose only mission is to take them out. Imagine a version of The Amazing Race in which those plucky globetrotting couples weren’t just in competition with each other but had to, say, elude capture by Interpol, and you get the idea. (In fact, Chase host Trey Farley’s overenunciated baritone sounds an awful lot like Amazing Race host Phil Keoghan’s.) Beyond its similarities to The Amazing Race and the show’s own self-description as a live-action video game, it’s the pop-culture language of movies that provides Chase its suspense touchstones. The hunters are severe-looking men and women dressed in chic dark-suit-and-sunglasses ensembles that look as if Agent Smith from The Matrix hadstarted his own fashion line, while their silent, steady determination and perimeter-scanning point-of-view shots (courtesy of mini-cameras on the sunglasses and digital post-production) recall the human-looking cyborgs of the Terminator franchise. And the contestants? Like overconfident camp counselors picked off one by one in a slasher flick, their pre-game boasts all-too-easy fodder for the editors once the footage is all in. “I’ve become more athletic the older I get,” 37-year-old carpenter Jason tells us before the show cuts to him tripping and falling in the street. Meanwhile, 28-year-old IT consultant and video gamer Bryan merrily proclaims, “I’m going to win it with sheer brainpower,” but loses his map right away and stumbles into being the first hunter-tagged casualty. Maybe this show could be a valuable lesson for the Xbox generation. As F. Scott Fitzgerald would have said, there are no resets in American lives.

—Robert Abele

LA Weekly