Competition stirs athletes inner host

Comcast SportsNet's 'Wanted: Adventure Host' tosses out script
by: COURTESY OF Comcast Sportsnet, 
Troutdale's Jeremy McLaughlin, shown during a repelling challenge on

As an aspiring actor, Jeremy McLaughlin feels plenty comfortable in front of the camera, which is a good thing, because the tape was rolling all the time as he and 11 others went through filming of Comcast SportsNet's reality series 'Wanted: Adventure Host.'

It's not a drama-filled show, full of confrontation and exuberance, along the lines of MTV's 'Real World' and other products of the reality-show era. It certainly lacks the buzz and attention of Fox's 'American Idol' or even NBC's 'America's Got Talent.' But, it's a regional network's effort in the reality-show realm, and McLaughlin was happy to be a part of it.

Two weeks of filming took place in Central Oregon last summer, and half the shows have been run. McLaughlin, a former wrestler at the University of Oregon, still clung to life along with four other contestants on the show, which airs Monday nights on Comcast SportsNet (37).

Producers wanted contestants to be comfortable and appealing in front of the camera - the winner gets to play host to a yet-to-be-determined adventure show - and not try to generate drama.

'I grew up as an athlete, and I'd compete with some media and cameras around, but you're oblivious to them,' says McLaughlin, 25, who hails from Central Point and now lives in Troutdale. 'This is completely different. You're competing to host a show and you have be the host you want to be during the competition. You're stretching yourself, and everything you say is being recorded by four or five cameras.

'They don't want you to play to the camera. It's about finding someone with personality, where every time you turn on your television you see somebody with a personality doing something amazing in the Pacific Northwest. When I'm acting, I'm pulling a character out of the script. This is pulling the character out of myself.'

Singular focus

McLaughlin survived Monday's elimination. Lake Oswego resident Ryan Chapman did not. Each week brings another challenge and activity, and Monday's was to do a mini-triathlon, with trail running, jumping off a cliff and swimming and mountain biking, and then be cool in front of the camera when done. Contestants can win immunity from elimination, a la NBC's 'Biggest Loser.'

Chapman opted to use a life preserver, which meant he took a time penalty.

'Using (the vest) was a mistake,' Chapman says, 'and then my bike broke. I picked up the bike and ran with it. … I did not do my best, and it's not for lack of athletic ability, it was just poor strategy.'

Contestants line up before three judges at the end of the show and either get invited back or get served walking orders. Chapman got the boot.

'It was weird, for two weeks I was focused on one thing in life - for 23 hours a day, with one hour a day making sure my work was taken care of,' says Chapman, 24, a financial adviser in Milwaukie, a former Lewis and Clark College football player and an avid skier. 'You're always in competition, a singular focus, around wonderful people on and off camera. Then, all of the sudden, judges say you're not what they're looking for.

'I had to do a nine-mile run the next day just to get (the show) out of my head and think about what's next.'

Earning respect

The code in reality shows being not to talk about future episodes, McLaughlin says the future airings are full of excitement. He and four contestants remain: Cameron Carpenter of Corvallis, who has been a bull rider and motocross rider; Lindsey Evenson, a cook and mother of three from Salem; Duane Inglin, a firefighter and fisherman from Puyallup, Wash.; and Tyler Thompson, a rock climber from Bellingham, Wash.

'Lindsey hung with the boys,' McLaughlin says. 'She's got a great personality, always smiling and happy, but she kept up physically as well. She didn't approach it like it was her against the guys.'

The show featured three other (eliminated) contestants from the Portland area: Brent Groth, a surfer from Portland; Beau Parker, an outdoorsman and former pro baseball pitcher from Vancouver, Wash.; and Zac Reisner, a former cowboy from Portland and, by far, the show's oldest contestant - he can remember as a young boy shaking the hand of John F. Kennedy before the president's assassination in 1963.

Groth was the resident character, an energetic young man to say the least. Encounter a dull moment, and the cameras would turn to Groth.

'You could tell producers used him as an insurance policy,' Chapman says. 'From the get-go, we realized he was cut from a different cloth.'

Reisner earned everybody's respect, Chapman adds, even through the early challenges and activities, which included a day of building an emergency shelter, flyfishing and treating an injured person - and then learning how to paddle a kayak.

'The issue he ran into was the pace and fervor they were looking for throughout the competition, he wasn't accustomed to or capable of doing,' he says. 'He's an incredible human being.'

Other challenges and activities included a day of navigation, including repelling off a cliff, a day at the shooting range and horseback riding through obstacles - all while being the camera's best friend.

So, the Comcast SportsNet adventure host will come from Jeremy, Lindsey, Cameron, Duane and Tyler.

'The two weeks in Central Oregon was probably the best two weeks of my life,' Chapman says. 'You're around 12 amazing outdoor athletes, living with them, 24 hours a day, and trying to put together a Comcast production and striving and competing yourself.

'The person who wins this thing definitely deserves to win it.'

Yes, welcome to reality TV … the winner has already been decided, but we won't know for another month and a half.