What do you get when the Executive Producers of The Amazing Race team up with the creative studio that brought us Lord of the Rings? Magic, that’s what. Action-packed, ogre-filled, nerd-tastic TV Magic…to be exact. Over the past 6 weeks ABC has been taking viewers on an epic adventure through the fictional kingdom of Everealm with its unique new ‘immersive reality’ show: The Quest. Are You Watching This? If you’re not you need to keep reading because you are missing out on something special. If you are, you probably still don’t realize just how amazing this show is.
The Quest is a competition (like Big Brother or Survivor or countless other reality programs) where 12 contestants take part in challenges to avoid eliminations and outlast the rest of the pack. But that is oversimplifying things. The Quest is an attempt to train common folk for an impending war. It is a medieval struggle for a kingdoms survival. And it is a noble search for the “One True Hero” (which is always said with such reverence that it deserves to be capitalized) that can save everyone from imminent disaster. The show reaches another plane by being ‘immersive’:
– First the competitors are never referred to as such. It is established from the beginning that they are Paladins hoping to be the One True Hero. “What’s a paladin?” you ask. Well reader, the word is derived from the name of Charlemagne’s 12 legendary knightly peers and therefor came to mean a heroic champion. In modern times you could use it to describe not just a knight but any advocate or defender of a noble cause (according to Webster’s Dictionary).
Why is this important? Because the future of Everealm is emphasised over winning the individual competition the Paladins often take on a team mentality. They work together to do things such as save the Queen’s life and think of who could most embody the image of the One True Hero when voting to banish other competitors. It creates a much different dynamic than in other reality shows.
– The Paladins have been dropped into an old-fashioned town full of villagers going about their day as if they are real people & not tv extras and have real not loose scripts to follow. Actors drive the story forward without having a formal host (Boo! I loooove hosts). This would be an interesting role, being as you need to keep the show on track but also properly interact with the contestants as if you are just another person going about your everyday life in this mystical land. It’s still a reality show! You can’t always predict what the contestants will say or how the Paladins will react. To get around this a loose script is written and then each actor is trained in improve. I can imagine there would be A LOT of improvising. To make sure no one goes off on inaccurate tangents each character has a full backstory. The actors are provided with lengthy descriptions of their character so they know how to go off book and still stay on plot.
At night the contestants do not emerge into reality; they sleep in the castle, as a knight-in-training should. This is when the actors finally get to take a break and go home to their pillow-top mattresses, television sets & iPhones…well most of them. The Paladins could be woken at any time by a costumed actor claiming the kingdom is under attack.
Apparently 100’s of castles were scouted when looking for the land that would be Everealm. The filming location is an isolated 70-ache forest ensconced castle in rural Austria…not to ruin the magic. Everealm isn’t real.
– But sometimes you think the contestants really believe it. Like any reality show The Quest is both the best and the worst thing on tv. You love the contestants and totally hate them. And you want to audition for the next season while also feeling as if you wouldn’t be caught dead on this show. Mainly you lust after being in such an epically cool environment but are embarrassed for the Paladins who act as if their Queen is in fact their ruler and the fate of Everealm is not a tv plot. Contestants were chosen based on their belief & love of the fantasy world; at times they tell tale of being bullied for being the nerd but having mythical stories to give them solace. Now they are getting a chance to live it, so they live it to the max. So much detail has been given to the sets that it supposedly looks as if you’ve stepped back in time. The crew and even visiting Producers dress in historically accurate costumes and never revealed their true identities. It’s all about maintaining the illusion.
“But what about the giant camera shoved in their face?” you ask. Good question; that is always what I want to know when considering the logistics of reality television. Sure in The Bachelor it’s fine to have a camera following you around, but don’t you think the burly man carrying a portable, yet television-quality camera is a dead give-away as to the location of the ‘prey’ on Mantracker? For The Quest the cameras were strategically hidden in multiple locations, allowing for the desired shots while still maintaining continuity of the time period.
In the end the show is incredibly well done! I imagine it had to be to convince the network to carry a show of this style. The plotline is enticing, the setting is majestic and the Paladins are entertaining characters. Plus the Sir Ansgar, the head of Everealm’s Royal Army is super dreamy!
My Are You Seeing This? Conclusion: Watch The Quest! Love it or hate it you will be amazed & entertained. Tonight the 7th of 10 episodes airs. This means that you can both binge watch 7 episodes in a row and still see the finale in real time! Huzzah!
Love & Luck,