He Said/She Said: Thoughts on Ryan Lochte Reality Show Debut

PHOENIX, Arizona, April 22. LAST night, the long-awaited debut of the reality show “What Would Ryan Lochte Do?” aired on the E! Network in the United States. Watching the premiere were Swimming World correspondents Shoshanna Rutemiller and Jeff Commings, who offer their thoughts on the Olympian's portrayal on the half-hour show.

Rutemiller: Instead of “What Would Ryan Lochte Do?” the question should be: “How Does Ryan Lochte Maintain His Lifestyle and Still Swim as Fast as He Does?” We got a brief glimpse of Lochte's training routine during the premiere episode of Lochte's E! Network reality show, and it certainly seemed like training isn't the top priority for the Olympic gold medalist and world record holder.

Granted, Lochte has just come off an Olympic year. And the miles of tape in Lochte footage E! Network filmed was probably edited to play up the “player” and downplay the “swimmer.” When producers brainstormed plotlines for WWRLD, the tallies beside “searches for love” must have trumped the other options. Not that surprising, considering Lochte previously stated that he was open to starring on a season of “The Bachelor.”

Even though Lochte's life is presented as party, play and preen, when he does hit the pool or the weight room, he goes hard. Lochte did say — in a now infamous interview that left a news anchor crying — that his motto is “if you're a man at night, you're a man in the morning.” And to Lochte, being a “man in the morning” means living up to his coaches' expectations day in and day out.

In the premiere episode, Lochte hits the town with his crew, er, “Lochterage” to find the girl of his dreams. He chats up a number of ladies, eventually picking up Megan, who agrees to go on a date with him. From a girl's perspective, I'm not surprised. Lochte is remarkably endearing when he attempts to chat up the ladies, and that's not even mentioning his lady-killer good looks.

But the best parts of the episode were any time Lochte was with his family. He obviously cares very deeply for them, and it was wonderful watching him tear up discussing how proud he was sharing his first gold medal moment with his family.

Although the episode was more dating show than look into the day-to-day life of the best swimmer in the world, to his credit, Lochte did manage to get people talking about swimming in a non-Olympic year. He had three hashtags trending on Twitter that related to his new reality show: #Lochte #wwrld and #whatwouldryanlochtedo … and this is a non-Olympic year in a non-championship month.

Let's hope that when Lochte also said via Twitter that “…the episodes only get better” this means including a bit more of his impressive training and a bit less of his drinking-buddy “Lochterage.”

Commings: I approached last night's debut episode from a swimmer's perspective and a staunch opponent of reality shows. How “real” are you and the people around you acting when they know a camera is just a few feet away?

The debut episode of WWRLD was not boring, but didn't leave me hungry for another peek into Lochte's non-swimming life. Maybe this is because I already know what his non-swimming life has been like since the London Olympics, and some of it doesn't interest me.

All of the time spent with Lochte's family has the potential to be the strongest aspect of the reality show, if only because it brings out various sides to Lochte's personality. If they are not careful, though, the Lochtes could be viewed as a couple of notches below the Kardashians. (Aside: I'm not fully buying into Lochte crying when talking about his family. One reason I dislike reality shows is the fact that producers have asked subjects to cry on camera to make things more emotional. Whether or not Lochte's tears were genuine or staged, I could not help but wonder which was the truth.)

I only timed one minute and 15 seconds of footage of Lochte at the pool in the entire hour of the debut episode. I know it's boring to film anyone swimming back and forth in the pool with their face in the water, and so I was not surprised to see very little training footage. And since this show is on the E! Network, the producers wanted to really put the “E” in “Entertainment.”

I'm not pleased with the fact that viewers will see Lochte as a hard-drinking, club-hopping guy with a love-'em-and-leave-'em attitude. It's not the impression Lochte needs to give to the young swimmers looking up to him. But then again, the kind of show these kids need to see would make very boring television.

Even if the show turns out to be E! Network's alternative to “The Bachelor,” I do hope we see some variety in each episode. The general public is not likely to believe all elite swimmers live the type of life Lochte portrayed in the debut, and I'm standing on the side of belief that the show won't hurt our sport. But Lochte is going to be one of our most publicized stars, and we need to see many more sides to him than a catchphrase and cool shoes.

Since this show airs at the same time as my beloved “Mad Men,” I won't make it appointment television, but I am interested to see how entertaining they can make footage of Lochte at a meet or getting his butt kicked in workout after a night of partying.

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