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TELEVISION REVIEW

One step ahead of 'hunters'

Sci Fi's reality show 'Chase,' with its comparisons to a video game, is not without appeal.

November 11, 2008|ROBERT LLOYD | TELEVISION CRITIC

In "Chase," a new reality show beginning tonight on the Sci Fi Channel, 10 contestants are inserted into what is presented as a human video game. I suppose it is, if only because it's a game, shot on video and played by humans.

Based, like so many American game shows, on an imported concept -- Japan gets credit for this one -- it sets its players (the "runners") loose upon a real-world "game board" over which they are pursued by cyborg-y "hunters" who take their fashion cues from "The Matrix" and their moves from "The Terminator."

The runners have to survive a 60-minute game of tag, evading the hunters and, as in a video game, solving puzzles and performing tasks to earn various protective devices. The winner is the one who arrives first at an exit point, which remains unrevealed until near the end. The essential skills seem to be running, hiding and being able to read a map.

To take the show on its own metaphorical terms, watching it is like watching other people play a video game -- not without its appeal, I can attest as someone too old to be any good at video games yet young enough to find them interesting. (I did beat "Bart Simpson's Escape From Camp Deadly.") A few visual conceits are stolen from the gaming world -- the stat-filled screens that introduce the players, maps that track their movements -- although for the most part it is not much to look at, just plain vanilla video.

The episode I've seen takes place at the harbor in San Pedro, though the location will change from week to week. Although a little effort is expended to individualize the contestants -- one wants calf implants, one will use his winnings to open a yoga center, one is older than the rest -- the fact is you won't know them long enough for it to matter much. They are targets to be picked off one by one.

While this is not a high-involvement viewing experience, it does generate a certain tension -- certainly it exists among the players, who are quick to fall into the narrative of the game. "That hunter sees me!" cries one hysterical runner from the safety of a ferry. "And can't get me! 'Cause I'm on the boat! A-ha hahaha!"

That's about all there is to it.

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robert.lloyd@latimes.com

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'Chase'

Where: Sci Fi

When: 10 tonight Rating: Not rated

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