“The Rebel Billionaire” follows the trend of media moguls using reality TV as an extended interview. Richard Branson, the current president of Virgin Worldwide, is looking for his replacement in a surprisingly entertaining show that lets him make all the rules.
Sixteen participants start out vying for the position and will be whittled down one by one each week. There are group competitions followed by elimination competitions — ultimately decided by Branson. In the first episode alone, contestants have to cross a plank between two hot air balloons, stand on top of the wing of a flying airplane and have a tea party floating in a hot air balloon.
For all of these competitions, Branson flies the contestants to various foreign countries. Watching the awkward American culture clashes is always funny. The eliminated contestants don’t find out they’re headed home until Branson tells them on the tarmac. They then have to watch the plane take off — this show’s version of the goodbye speech seen during the credits of so many other reality shows. Because he controls everything in “The Rebel Billionaire” universe, the contestants worship Branson like a British god of business. One contestant justifies a choice just because “it’s something Richard would do.”
The charismatic Branson has a lot to do with the appeal of “The Rebel Billionaire.” He sits back and smiles, amused by these people he basically controls. Branson also makes Trump look like a slouch, actually getting out and climbing the sides of hot air balloons and sitting gleefully on the wing of an airplane. He truly is the Indiana Jones of corporate moguls.
“The Rebel Billionaire” isn’t perfect — the contestants are hardly original and there’s an excess of voiceovers during the competitions. The women start arguing in the first half hour, and viewers don’t need to hear “I’m really scared” as they watch a woman trembling on a plank to get the point. Despite those small flaws, “The Rebel Billionaire” is remarkably entertaining for a reality show and well worth watching.
Rating: 3 and 1/2 out of 5 stars