Joe Talamo(left) poses with Michael Baze at Del Mar, before reality show stardom.
I tell you, it’s like they read my mind. From the opening theme to the cliffhangers between the commercials, Animal Planet totally nailed the modern docu-drama asthetic with Jockeys. The soundtrack is hip, the visuals are colorful and capture the activity on the track. The frenetic, MTV editing keeps viewers glued to the action and the individual jockeys’ storylines.
They’ve got all of the character archtypes: arrogant youngster in Joe Talamo, the aging Hall of Famer in Mike Smith and the struggling newcomer in Kayla Stra, plus the supportive yet competitive love interest in Chantal Sutherland. Aaron Gryder plays the Family Man. Supporting characters in the first 2 eps included Jon Court in the “best Friend” role and Cory Nakatani as the “wounded warrior”. Garret Gomez made a cameo as well, as the hot shot top winning jock everybody is chasing.
Unlike other reality show subjects, the jockeys face death daily: in the opening credits alone, there are at least 2 spills. In the first ep, Cory Nakatani goes down in a turf stake and is out for the meet (the horse was fine). In a touching scene early on, the jocks share a prayer with the race track chaplain before heading out to the track. Underscoring the danger is the thrill of victory, as when Talamo pulls off an upset with a horse named Booyah, or when Smith shows off on the champion mare Zenyatta.
Of course, no reality program is complete without relationship drama. Unfortunately, this is so far the weakest part of the show. Mike Smith is dating Chantal Sutherland, don’t you know? But she lives and rides in Canada, and must make the difficult choice between her career and her love life. Santa Anita is a much tougher circuit than Woodbine. She, of course, moves in with Mike & rearranges his closet. Maybe I’m just too cynical, but that part seemed so forced. I *did* like when they showed her rooting for Mike on Zenyatta during the second half of the show. The lovebirds could grow on me, though. It’s early yet.
Kayla Stra broke my heart in this episode, going barn door to door, begging for mounts in the wee hours of the morning. Breaking into the biz is a bitch. When she finally gets a horse to ride, the cantankerous critter nearly flips in the gate and sends Stra bailing out the back. Back in the saddle after a reset, she rides up the track, earning only her $75 mount fee. To add injury to insult, her foot is bruised in the starting gate action and so she has to sit and soak it after the losing ride.
In all, Jockeys has a lot going for it and I look forward to next week’s installment. From the promos, the show is going to look into flipping and other tortures jockeys put themselves through to make weight. I’ve already got it Tivo’d.