Media Review | Special Forces: World's Toughest Test
Updated: Feb 7
Something has always fascinated me about training tier-one units such as Delta Force and the SAS. Beyond just the intensity of the exercises, there is something that exposes the grit, determination, and inner character of the people willing to put themselves through treacherous conditions to become part of a tight-knit, war-fighting team.
This isn't the first time American media has dipped its toes into reality-based television wrapped in a military training package. Shows like "Combat Missions (2002)", "American Grit (2016)", and "The Selection: Special Operations Experiment (2016)" are American-produced programs that have featured a fusion of reality and competition TV. "Special Forces: World's Toughest Test" is similar to "The Selection," where a cadre of former commandos agonizes - I mean, trains - a small squad of masochistic candidates.
What many people will notice is that "Special Forces" is a derivative of the UK-produced "SAS: Who Dares Wins (2015)". The formula and training environment directly pick up where the seventh season of that program left off, except this time, we are bearing witness to a troop of willing individuals with a bit more star power than someone plucked from their home and dropped into a production environment. Many of these contestants (and the cadre) have their followings and fan bases, which is an immediate plus for viewer numbers. It also helps that (most of them) are charismatic, have a history of being in the public eye, and bring their baggage to the training ground.
The editing is driven by a need to create drama among the contestants. I do not doubt that the show is presented non-linearly (from Day 1 to Day 10), with the need for the post-production team to put an early focus on those contestants struggling, dominating, and/or having emotional reactions to the environment they are subjected to.
What I enjoy most about these sorts of shows is that we quickly find that physical dominance does not necessarily make a contestant a top contender. Those with solid minds and grit will rise to the top. However, a bad attitude and a lack of military bearing can keep an individual from passing the course, even if they pass all the challenges.
The training exercises and stunts remind me of the program "Fear Factor," except with an apparent military influence. Seeing the cadre demonstrate the activity is fantastic, proving that they can perform. Water is the great equalizer, so I expect many more challenges to involve water.
This show is highly entertaining, especially for those who enjoy military-oriented shows like those mentioned above.
The curated drama is an unfortunate side-effect of a fascinating look into the once-hidden world of special forces selection, but this doesn't keep the show from being unwatchable. Bringing in contestants with some popularity allows an otherwise ignorant audience to become engaged with them and their adventure. I will certainly be watching this program through to the end.